A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game Hardcover – 16 Aug 2005
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For a tennis standpoint, before The Match womens tennis was not a serious sport. The women played, but almost by themselves. The money, the sponsors, television, the fame wasn't there. After it was all there.
From a legal standpoint, The Match put power behind Title IX that required equal funding in schools for men and womens atheletic programs. From the overall women's rights viewpoint The Match was in 1973, so was Row v. Wade.
Ms. Roberts is a sports columnist. This training gives her a newspaper like writing style that is very well suited to the subject she is covering here. The book reads almost like a novel, an excellent novel but also conveys the impact of The Match that changed women's sports forever.
Where the book really stumbles, however, is with the later chapters and the ludicrous hypotheses that without the Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs match of 1973, Title IX would never have been signed into law, the Williams sisters would never have made it big, and the ladies of the 1999 World Cup would have been ignored. In all three cases, that is a mighty big leap in logic to make.
The best definition of the Riggs-King match is in the title of this book...."spectacle". While it may have finally proven to some who had not yet realized it that watching a woman play tennis could be enjoyable, it certainly shouldn't be argued that it proved much else. BJK defeating a man who competed in Wimbledon before she was born certainly didn't prove that women's tennis and men's tennis were equal.
Unfortunately, it appears that this is the only book currently available to cover the subject of this memorable match. Therefore, it may be worth a look for the early chapters, as well as the chapters concerning Billie Jean's later years, Bobby's last years, and the insecurities possessed by each of them. However, take the conclusions that the author makes on the importance of this match with a grain of salt. Certainly there were other much more relevant events in sport that led to better opportunities for women than the circus in Houston.
To this day, with an attendance of 30,492, still the largest live audience to see a single tennis match in US history....not to mention the 90 million who watched on television in the US and 36 countries. The battle of the sexes was/is really the battle for equality. "A Necessary Spectacle" is an entertaining read about the biggest "sports-entertainment-political" event of the past century which was fused into a huge fireball...and continues to burn. You will enjoy this book.