One of the most notable tennis matches of the last century was one in which a 29-year old Billie Jean King, now a lesbian icon, emerged victorious over former Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs. It was 1973 in the Houston Astrodome, and the “Battle of the Sexes” was billed as the ultimate contest between man and woman.
Now, 40 years after the match — one that was not played for a title or a hefty purse, just bragging rights — one man is claiming that Riggs threw the match in order to settle his debts with mobsters.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reports that Hal Shaw, a South Florida golf pro, overheard gangsters discussing the televised event, and how Riggs — a gambling addict — would throw the match with King. Riggs’ chauvinistic taunts and braggadocio isn’t in question. He pushed the “chauvinist pig” definition to the degree that women tennis pros presented him with a pig following the match (King demurred, wanting to make peace with Riggs). But were his boasts about men being so much better than women just the words of a blowhard, or were they calculated and planned by mobsters to increase publicity, and therefore up the betting ante, on the match? The mob, if they knew the outcome before the match, would be in a great position to rake in the dough.
Does the explanation hold water? Read the ESPN story and decide for yourself.