Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game Hardcover – August 16, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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.
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
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
To this day, with an attendance of 30,492, still the largest live audience to see a single tennis match in US history....not to mention the 90 million who watched on television in the US and 36 countries. The battle of the sexes was/is really the battle for equality. "A Necessary Spectacle" is an entertaining read about the biggest "sports-entertainment-political" event of the past century which was fused into a huge fireball...and continues to burn. You will enjoy this book.
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.
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.
It's journalism like this that makes you thankful for the freedom of the press. Serena pulls out all the stops and wields her pen like a mighty mighty sword that skewers Bobby Riggs and masculines like him.
What I like about this book is that we have a journalist of unquestionable character writing facts. Never imposing her will or agenda on the topic, Serena writes with an aplomb for herself. Serena Roberts would never make a claim or supposition or read a situation 100% wrong (except for the Duke Lacrosse Case, give her a break folks, she's human!).
So, while a lot of people like to point out that Ms. Roberts may have her own agenda and jump to conclusions that turn out to be 100% inaccurate, that doesn't make her a bad journalist. The bad journalists are the ones who never take a chance and risk a little something by inserting their opinions and judgments into the story.
Integrity can be regained, people. Selena takes her first step back with this grand tome.