The match wasn't so much a set as a set piece. Riggs and King played their assigned roles to the hilt, Riggs pretending to be a "male, chauvinist pig" as the epithet of the time had it, who claimed to believe that women belonged in the kitchen, and King doing her earnest women's lib thing. Before the match began she presented Riggs with a squealing piglet. Everyone at the time acted as if something were really at stake in the outcome.
It may even have been fixed. ESPN has published an interesting piece suggesting that Riggs threw the match to settle his gambling debts. That he was a lifelong gambler with ties to the Mafia is undisputed. He had trounced reigning champion Margaret Court four months before. His son and others confirm that he had visits from mob leaders in the weeks before the King match. This has renewed debate about the game and about whether the 55-year-old was beaten fair and square by the 29-year-old.
The game didn't prove anything and didn't change anything. It was a confection of hype, publicity, money and showbiz. Leave it to the keepers of our cultural flames to treat it like D-Day.
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