HOUSTON (AP) — Bobby Riggs’ next big spectacle may be a leap off Suicide Bridge in Pasadena, California, while Billie Jean King is just happy to have made a spectacle of the 55-year-old hustler and to have won $200,000 to boot.
Screaming, delirious womens-libbers lit up more brightly than the rocket-shooting Astrodome scoreboard Thursday night when Mrs. King showed the devastating swiftness that won her five Wimbledon titles in defeating self-proclaimed male chauvinist Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the internationally televised battle of the sexes tennis extravaganza.
— Associated Press account of the Sept. 20, 1973 match.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
All of us.
Athletes. Fans. Journalists.
But, oh my, do we have a long way to go.
As we mark the 44th anniversary of the landmark tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, along with Friday’s release of the movie “Battle of the Sexes ,” it seems only fitting that we evaluate the state of women’s athletics.
Clearly, there are far more opportunities for girls and young women to pursue their sporting dreams, much of it thanks to the Title IX law that was enacted just 15 months before the King-Riggs melodrama. It guarantees equal access to any program or activity receiving federal dollars, which pretty much covers all major college athletic programs.
In terms of participation by female athletes, Title IX has been an undeniable success.
But that’s only through the college level.
When it comes to making a living through sports — not getting rich, mind you, just a living wage — the opportunities are far more limited for a woman than a man.
There are some successes, of course, particularly in the individual sports such as tennis and golf. But when it comes to female team sports, especially in the United States, there just aren’t any success stories. Not even the WNBA, the women’s league with the most staying power and probably the only one that most die-hard sports fans are even aware of, can’t be classified as a huge leap forward.
Even now, more than two decades after its founding, it remains a league that is played for a few months in the summers — outside of the traditional basketball season — for pay that remains…