By now you’ve ascertained that I’m a bit of a documentary geek. It’s something I’ve acquired late in life. Years ago, you wouldn’t catch me alive watching a program I could actually learn something from. Well, with the exception of the Jacques Cousteau films. They were always pretty cool to watch and it didn’t seem like I was larnin’ anything.
Fast forward to present day and my aversion to docs has disappeared. I happened to catch one a few weeks ago that really caught my interest. It was about the career of Billie Jean King. I’m old enough to remember the primetime Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean and Bobbie Riggs. Tennis was exploding at that time. Both of my parents had picked it up, although my Dad soon abandoned it for his beloved golf. My Mom was played regularly even through her pregnancy with my brother until a hyper-extended knee put an end to that. All of us kids were in a junior league. Me, less enthusiastically than the other. That court was HUGE and you had to run around it. Meh.
Anywho, Billie Jean’s rise in the ranks and the public consciousness came at a very interesting time for women. She was the first person to kind of challenge the idea that women’s tennis was very ladylike. Heck that women’s sports weren’t a serious endeavor. This was several years before Title IX came into play and women in sports were an afterthought to the “real” sports. Read “men’s” sports.
In the doc, she talks about the match and the significance it held. All of this was lost to me at that time. I was old enough to be aware of it but really didn’t understand the significance. So all this backstory information was fascinating. The film did a great job of framing how things were for female athletes in those days. What I didn’t know was there was a previous match with Riggs and Margaret Court whom he roundly beat thus forcing Billie Jean to step up after she’d already said no to the match the first time.
Her drive and ambition to be successful and elevate women and women’s sports against tide of “not gonna happen here” mentalities is truly inspiring. One thing she said during the film was “girls were taught to be satisfied with the crumbs men gave them. I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted the whole pie”
Hmmm. The whole pie. Sounds pretty good. I’ll have that as well.