Bobby Riggs played the first three games
against Billie Jean King in his warm-up
jacket. Some attempt at humour, and
a sporting sign of intended disrespect.
When Larry Bird left his warm-up jacket
on and still won the three-point shooting
contest it was arrogant. But it worked. Riggs
took his jacket off for the fourth game in
the first set. Proof that his dick-move didn’t
work. He kept losing from there. Won a game
or two, sure. But he had the words “Sugar Daddy”
on the back of his jacket. He had said in the
pre-match interview that Billie Jean King wasn’t
bad – for a girl. He had been the one to organise
the match, having started this gimmick of playing
women tennis players a few months earlier. It worked,
for him, the first time. But not when he played King.
She took him out in a brutal three-set crushing.
She’s been asked about it every day since. And
Riggs was able to just ride off into some sunset of
retirement. King rang him on his deathbed and told
him she loved him. No warm-up jacket, no jokes,
just total and utter respect. She turned the gimmick
match into a career highlight. Just one of several.
And then carried on winning. In tennis. In life.