Houston Matters

More Spectacle Than Sport: Remembering The ‘Battle Of The Sexes’ At The Astrodome

We look back at the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match held at the Astrodome in 1973 as a new film about it is in theaters.

Battle of the Sexes Tennis Match at the Astrodome
The “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome in 1973.

The new movie, Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, tells the story of the infamous tennis match of the same name between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King

Now, if you’re not a big sports fan – or weren’t around here back in 1973 – maybe you’re unaware the match took place right here in Houston at the Astrodome.

It was significant because it pitted a man – the 55-year-old aging pro tennis player in Riggs – against a woman – the 29-year-old rising star in King. Winner of the match would take home $100,000, which King claimed with a victory in three sets.

It was a huge moment for women’s equality, women in sport, women’s tennis, and for tennis in general. Millions watched it on ABC at a time when tennis matches weren’t televised very often.

At the time, Dan Lovett was a sportscaster for KTRK Channel 13 here in Houston, and he was sent to cover the match. He was stationed on press row, right next to Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell, who were broadcasting the game nationally.

These days, Lovett is retired and living in Cypress. He shared a few of his memories of the event with Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty. Lovett said the match at times seemed like more of a television spectacle than real sporting event.

Battle of the Sexes - Billie Jean King And Bobby Riggs
Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs smile during a news conference in New York to publicize their upcoming “Battle of the Sexes” match at the Houston Astrodome.

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