One of the most important anniversaries in sports was Tuesday, Sept. 20.
It’s an anniversary I feel particularly strongly about, because I have met the woman involved several times and found her to be one of the classiest, most heartfelt people I’ve ever met.
On Sept. 20, 1973, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that was kind of like a day at the circus. It was played at the Houston Astrodome, where 45,000 people attended, and to say it was a hugely important day for women’s rights, and women’s athletes, is an understatement.
It’s easy to look back now and marvel at how it was such a big deal that 29-year-old woman in her athletic prime could whip a 55-year-old man on the court. (And I love the cheesy commercial above, which I found randomly on YouTube. God bless the Internet).
But it was a big deal. There were plenty of people back then who didn’t think King would win. But she did, easily.
Like I said, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing King a few times over the years, and she was nothing but gracious, eloquent, and kind. I would make the argument that she was the most influential female athlete/leader of the 20th century, and thanks to her millions more women were treated as serious athletes as the 20th century’s final decades rolled on.
So 38 years later, every female athlete playing today owes a small debt to Billie Jean King, truly a legend of our time.
**Here’s what can happen when you’re on the field at an NFL game. This poor intern for the New York Giants, Ryan Brown, was standing behind the end zone, minding his own business Monday night, when Giant Michael Boley scored a TD and tried to throw the ball over the cameraman. And he, eh, showed why he’s not a QB: (Boley later apologized to the kid).
**Maybe you’re familiar with the case of Troy Davis, a Georgia man sentenced to the death penalty and scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.
Despite there being literally NO physical evidence, despite seven of nine eyewitnesses re-canting their testimony against him, despite there being NO evidence of any crime being committed against police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Ga., in 1989, the state parole board denied Mr. Davis clemency on Tuesday.
This is the country we live in. This is what happens when you have an irreversible act like the death penalty as an option.
The state of Georgia is about to execute a man who is very likely innocent. And the blood on the hands of everyone involved should leave a permanent stain.
Meanwhile, Rick Perry and his “fans” are probably standing and cheering right now.