Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pressure is a Privilege

Such is the title of a book by Billie Jean King (with Christine Brennan). I bought it because it's small and its subtitle was, "Lessons I've Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes."

I adore Billie Jean King. She was the driver for much of the work that ensured, finally, that Venus Williams would earn the exact same monetary prize as Roger Federer at Wimbledon, that Title IX ensured girls access to school sports, that female athletes were considered equally entertaining and revenue-generating as male athletes. She was--and continues to be--a tireless advocate for women and sports. I absolutely heart Billie Jean King.

Which is why this book makes me sad. She deserves better than this slapped-together, typo-ridden, exclamation point-overloaded "booklet." Her stories about her historic match against Bobby Riggs are wonderful and detailed--and rather complimentary toward the late Mr. Riggs. Her tremendous sense of obligation to not let women down in that match is palpable, especially since (I learned) he had beaten Margaret Court in a similar, though less-hyped match the previous year. She speaks of Bobby Riggs with great respect, of her evolving ability to take life (though not her work) less seriously, of her commitment to remaining active and vibrant into her later years. (She's only 65, but you get the point: she retired from tennis but not from life and business). In short, Billie Jean King is a flat-out national treasure. She changed history for women in sports and deserves more than this amateur pseudo-self help mini-book.

I love her, but I sure wish I hadn't given her my money this time around.

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