If you wonder how real change happens… how it is that Maria Sharapova is estimated to have made over $250 million dollars and might be one of the world’s highest paid athletes, compared to Billie Jean King who barely made $1,000  to win Wimbledon the 1970s? You might also wonder how can we change things when we have Harvey Weinstein still abusing his power over young woman? Go see “Battle of the Sexes” and dare to dream big!

I am old enough to remember watching Billie Jean King (BJK) beat Bobby Riggs in 1973, I was 13 years old. My mother, sisters, and I all gathered around a 12-inch TV to watch the pivotal event along with 90 million people! As a former competitive tennis player, Billie Jean has been an idol, role model, and hero to me.

This movie captures a different side of Billie Jean—her personal side. You come to understand her struggles of trying to change the world while being a gay woman in the closet.  And, Bobby Riggs is portrayed as a sad, former Wimbledon champion and gambler who needed something to live for again at age 55. The real villain was Jack Kramer, another famed Wimbledon champion who as the leader of the United States Lawn Association (now the USTA) made the decision to pay women 80% less money because he said the male players were the main draw, they are stronger and more entertaining.

Billie Jean challenged his view and said that the women sold the same amount of tickets, why shouldn’t they get the same money? So she and a small group of the top women tennis professionals left the USLTA and started their own tour. One of my favorite characters is the tour promoter, Gladys Heldman. She lines up the sponsorship with Virginia Slims, and is a smoker who encourages all the players to smoke for the tour!

This group of top professional athletes started their tour having to do everything—sell tickets, set up the tennis courts (including literally putting up the nets!), stay in flea-bag motels, and find time to practice and make the matches entertaining!

BJK’s famous quote is “pressure is a privilege.” She never wanted to play the match with Riggs, but she felt compelled to after he brutally beat the #1 female player in the world, Margaret Court. Bobby said that women should go back to the kitchen and bedroom (the movie shows how he had a wealthy wife!). BJK felt the pressure to play and beat Bobby, so women would be taken seriously. She practiced diligently, carrying the weight of all women’s dignity on her shoulders.

Tears flowed down my face as I watched BJK beat Bobby in three sets, and scenes of women around the world crying and jumping for joy.

I don’t know about you but I could use more occasions lately to imagine that positive change can still happen… Please go see this movie and take your husband, daughter, son, grandkid… anyone and everyone can find inspiration in this film.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *