Riggs: Billie Jean, if it'll make you feel better, I'll be glad to wear a dress for our match.
King: What you wear is immaterial to me. For all I care you can wear your jockstrap.
So Riggs, a paragon of good taste, had himself photographed in a jock and sent, so he claimed, a print to her for her approval. He also toyed with the idea of presenting her with a funeral wreath just before the match, a play on the Mother's Day bouquet he gave Court. He gave lessons to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, played against newscaster Harry Reasoner while at various times tied to a suitcase, a dog on a leash and a bucket of water and showed up for an exhibition at Forest Hills wearing a dress. And always the tongue was wagging:
"I don't mind being called a male chauvinist pig as long as I'm the No. 1 male chauvinist pig. I like to be at the top of the ratings.
"I plan to bomb Billie Jean King in the match and set back the Women's Lib movement about another 20 years.
"The best way to handle women is to keep them pregnant and barefoot."
Everybody tried to get in the act. The Astrodome gave ticket buyers the option of sitting on the Riggs side or the King side and announced that Riggs seats were going faster. There is a Virginia Slims tournament in Houston that week and King's companions on the tour will be given Thursday night off and will sit in a special rooting section. A gaggle of traitorous females are going to counterbalance the Slimsites by wearing Bobby Riggs T shirts. The mayor of Long Beach, King's hometown, gave her a QT (quiet tennis) pill made out of a tennis ball, to shove down Riggs' throat. Manufacturers of indoor surfaces knocked down the doors trying to get their products used (Sportface was picked, pleasing Billie Jean but displeasing Bobby, who wanted Supreme-Court). And the commercial offers rolled in, making "$100,000 winner-take-all" incorrect. The loser is going to gross about that much and the winner figures to make at least double.
It doesn't take a Lew Archer to figure out that all this is more show biz than sport, and the Astrodome seems like the ideal setting—perfect for a spectacle if not for a tennis match. If we ever elect a Nero President, he will surely feed his victims to the lions there. The court will be set up on the infield, with the center of the net approximately where the pitcher's mound normally would be. The Houston Astros originally were supposed to play there the night of the 20th, but they were forced to change their schedule and play a twi-night double-header on the 19th. Could anyone have guessed a few years ago that the National Pastime would ever be made to move over for a tennis match, and a bisexual one at that?
"One problem we'll both have is background," said Riggs. "It's such a vast area, with no fences, no screen and no beautiful acoustics, which you usually have when you're enclosed in a nice tight stadium.... You're going to see over the net and keep looking another 200 yards!"
Then there are the Astrodome lights, rimming the stadium where the dome meets the wall. They were a bit of a problem when UCLA's basketball team lost to the University of Houston there in 1968, and the bulbs at each end had to be dimmed. Overheads and serves could be tricky, especially since the Astros' baseball schedule will limit practice time.