September 06, 2009

A modern ritual which annoys me rather a lot is that of having to see Billie Jean King’s bloated face and dyed hair during opening and closing Grand Slam tennis ceremonies. King was a hell of a player, but much too loud and brash for her time, which was my time as well, incidentally. Little Miss Moffitt, as she was called by the media before she married a man called King—it was a marriage of convenience, to say the least—became a feminist icon when she beat 57-year-old Bobby Riggs in straight sets back in the Seventies. I was never convinced of the outcome. Riggs, whom I knew much too well, was having money problems and could have tanked for a large sum. All I know is he was capable of cheating, and what better way to make a bundle than accept a bribe from militant feminists, or better yet, bet an enormous sum against himself. Mind you, it’s all conjecture on my part.

Billie Jean King is the icon that she is because of her lesbianism and the fact that she has always pushed for women’s purses to be equal to those of the men. Equal pay for equal play I agree with, but that’s not what the women say. They want equal pay for unequal play. Not best of five, but best of three sets, plus it’s boys against boys and girls against girls. If the field was open, the way horse jumping or dressage is, there would be no women on the computer’s first one thousand. The 1000th man would, in my not-so-humble opinion, beat Serena Williams 6-1, 6-2, if he were nervous, but if he were not, he’d win with two bagels.

But this is not why I’m annoyed when the TV cameras zero in on BJ King and the cheer-leading commentators start mouthing their usual clichés: icon, legend, champion of champions, and so on. My reason is that the kudos belong to someone else, not to King, or her fellow lesbian Martina Navratilova—who receives almost as much praise—but to a quiet, self-effacing Australian lady by the name of Margaret Court. Margaret was born in 1942 in New South Wales, and dominated tennis from 1960 to 1973, when she retired. It was Margaret Court who Riggs beat a year before the King match in what was called the battle of the sexes. (Making me even more suspicious about the King match). But now read this: Court won 24 Grand Slam titles, more than any other man or woman—Federer holds the men’s record at 15—followed by, Steffi Graf with 22, Helen Wills Moody with 19, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 each, Billie Jean King with 12, and Serena Williams with 11. 

Court won 11 Australian Opens, 3 Wimbledon titles, 5 French Opens, and 5 U.S. Opens. So then, why is Court totally ignored by the media elite and the countless sponsored tennis tournaments around the globe? It’s an easy question to answer. Margaret Court, whom I knew when I was on the circuit and like very much, committed the unpardonable sin in the mid-Seventies by renouncing her Catholic religion and becoming a Pentecostal and subsequently a minister of that church. Worse, she openly declared that she was anti-abortion and that the women’s game was full of lesbians preying on young players. She stated that Navratilova and King encouraged such behavior.

Well, you can imagine how that went over with the media elite and the Powers That Be in tennis. A Christian minister warning parents to be careful with their tennis playing daughters on the circuit is considered on a par with saying Hitler was a nice guy. Court has become a non-person. Steffi Graf, who is second on the list, is not heard about too much either. Steffi has also committed two major sins: She’s married with children and is a German to boot—two real bummers.

So, next time you don’t see Margaret Court being feted at some tournament, mark down the name of the sponsor and boycott the product, whatever it may be. That’s the only way to make sponsors understand. Hit them where it hurts, in their bulging pockets. In the meantime, whenever you hear some loudmouth cheerleader talking about female icons and champions, write in and ask about the greatest of them all—Margaret Court. 


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