Out of Print--Limited Availability.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game Paperback – May 1, 2006


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400051479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400051472
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,403,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The legendary 1973 battle of the sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was equal parts media circus and watershed political moment. This book on the match, however, is beguiling in structure: it starts with the pair's oddly similar underdog childhoods and slowly builds to the main event—only to turn unexpectedly in the second half into a chronicle of the Title IX movement. Women's soccer, the Williams sisters, Annika Sorenstam—Roberts's coverage knows no bounds. The author, a New York Times sports columnist, gets at the falseness of the 1973 competition (aging Riggs didn't even bother to train) without detracting from its significance. And if the match's outcome is well known, Roberts spices it up with new insight: King's evolution as an activist was slow and uncomfortable; Riggs's chauvinism was as much shtick as misguidedness. But for a book with such evident ambition, it sometimes feels too journalistic; only too late does it move from a celebration of feminism to a larger assessment of Title IX's future. More perplexingly, Roberts reflects only a little on the consequences of what, as she suggests in the title, is the biggest subtext of Riggs-King and, indeed, modern sports: its evolution into spectacle.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

On September 20, 1973, Billie Jean King, the premier female tennis player of her era, defeated aging male former Wimbledon champion and self-promoting hustler Bobby Riggs in a nationally televised match ballyhooed as the "Battle of the Sexes." At the time, it seemed like made-for-television tripe, but there were larger issues at stake, many understood only by King and a handful of supporters. Roberts, an award-winning columnist for the New York Times, explores the events leading up to the match as well as the subsequent consequences, both direct and indirect. Riggs had created a context for the match by proclaiming women players so inferior to men that the best woman couldn't beat an over-the-hill hustler. His first challenge match with a woman, against Australian Margaret Court, seemed to prove his point as he demolished one of the top-tier female stars. But Court was no Billie Jean. Roberts explores the match in terms of its cultural significance, its impact on Title IX legislation, and the rise of feminism--in sports and otherwise--in the last quarter of the twentieth century. She also profiles the personalities involved, particularly the principals, King, Riggs, and Court. The only misstep in this ambitious and successful exploration of a uniquely American athletic moment is a chapter on contemporary tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. It just doesn't fit well within the theme of the book. On balance, though, this a fascinating, carefully crafted history of a contest that may have been the catalyst for a new era of women's athletics. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Schulz on August 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! I'm not a huge tennis fan so as I began reading, I was shocked at how quickly this story pulled me in and kept me fascinated. It's about so much more than tennis. The personalities and motivations of Billie Jean and Bobby were so thoroughly explored that as this spectacle of a match was becoming imminent, I could feel the pressure and the tension that must have been felt not only by them, but by many women and men in the 1970s as gender lines were being tested. This book did a great job of framing the importance of that one event, as circus-like as it was. Billie Jean and Bobby brought discussions of gender roles into people's living rooms that day and the consequences have paved the way for women and for the athletes we cheer on today. "A Necessary Spectacle" gave me new insight. Excellent!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on September 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle of this book 'the Tennis Match that Leveled the Game' isn't quite strong enough. This single match, called the 'Battle of the Sexes' was far, far more than a tennis match, and the aftereffect was far, far more than levelling the tennis game.

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.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JDC on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the first few chapters of this book. They provide a cursory look at the careers of Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King; the "Mother's Day Massacre" of Margaret Court; and the events leading up to, during, and immediately following the Riggs-King match. My only issue with these chapters would be with those concerning the careers of Riggs and King. In both cases, the author jumps from each one of them struggling to make it big, to suddenly they are playing at Wimbledon. Some portion of both of their career paths is obviously omitted from the text.

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.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bradley F. Smith on April 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Some interesting archaeology about the now nearly forgotten King-Riggs tennis match. Roberts, of the NYT, brings to life how important this thing seemed at the time, even though it all looks decidedly quaint today. Where the author goes off is when she tries to relate this to the federal Title 9 law on equality for women in sports. It's a bit forced, even if valid. Perhaps it's the book's herky-jerky structure that is just not nuanced enough to make this work. She also includes some interesting background about the Williams sisters, the relevance being that they later reaped what Billie Jean King sowed, financially. Maybe so. In the end, Riggs comes off more sympathetic than pathetic, and King is a bit too deified. Still, this is some high quality social history about an episode whose effects still have an echo.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By Marc R on May 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Boy, women's tennis was different back then!

And I am not a tennis fan at all but BJK changed sports and our culture, not just tennis.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By fit girl on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent background on the history of the Women's Tennis Association, the impact of this match on women's tennis and title ix and the implications for the increased participation in sports by women at all levels (interscholatic, intercollegiate, and professional).
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again