Archive for the ‘tennis’ Tag

Battle of the Sexes Movie

It was great going with members of the Capital Tennis Association to see the movie Battle of the Sexes this Saturday evening. As a gay lesbian and bi group of tennis people, CTA members had multiple interests in the movie’s topics. We knew the people, could enjoy the sport and identify with the character’s same-sex interest. Many of the actors playing small roles, including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming, gave the movie extra gay cache. Thanks to the social director and others in the group’s leadership for organizing the two showings.

Only a few of us were old enough to have experienced the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King when it originally occurred. Most of us recall the spectacle and our thrill over King’s victory, but I also recall the intensity of the Women’s Liberation movement and the backlash it faced from a wide-range of males in the U.S. at the time. King’s victory proved very important to the movement. The movie captures that spirit of the tennis match very well. It shows the way the professionals played the game in that era, with much serve and volley tactics, and illuminates just how much slower it seems the serves and ground strokes were, partially because of the wooden racquets and other equipment disadvantages.

The story is less successful in showing the strength of male chauvinism that existed at the time. We see the feeling embodied in Jack Kramer, who also represents the elitism of tennis that King battles against. However, he does not spout any of the highly vitriolic language and anger that came out of many male chauvinists. Intriguingly, Kramer was a key figure in the establishment of the “Open-era” of tennis which did democratize the sport to a significant degree.

Since it is a movie, it will need to combine events and things to fit into the short time span. Battle of the Sexes melds the founding of the Virginia Slims Tournament with the start of the Women’s Tennis Association which actually happened three years apart. It makes a point of showing that Kramer kicked the women who joined the WTA out of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. This supposedly denied the nine women of the WTA access to the Grand Slam Tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open). Such an action would have been a huge loss to the women and the sport yet the movie does not discuss it again. King and the others played in those Grand Slams so the denial seems to have not occurred.

At the conclusion, the movie provides a few lines of epilogue to show what happened to the characters afterwards. My husband and I stood agape as the closing did not mention Marilyn Barnett and her famous palimony suit against Billie Jean King in 1981. We mentioned this to the other group members and none of them had heard of the case and how much it cost Billie Jean King in endorsements. Palimony had roots in the famous Lee Marvin and Michelle Triola Marvin in 1977. Other cases include

  • Rock musician Peter Frampton was sued by Penelope J. “Penny” McCall in 1976. McCall asked for half of Frampton’s earnings during the five years that they were together. According to McCall, she gave up her job as a rock promoter and devoted herself full-time to Frampton, right at the time that he achieved superstar status. A New York judge ruled that Frampton and McCall never intended to marry each other and “never held themselves out to the public as husband and wife” and dismissed her complaint on the grounds that to act otherwise would condone adultery. The case set precedent in New York state.[8][9]
  • Tennis player Billie Jean King was sued by Marilyn Barnett in 1981.
  • Tennis player Martina Navratilova was sued by Judy Nelson in 1991.
  • In 1996, Van Cliburn was sued by former partner Thomas Zaremba for a share of his income and assets following a 17-year relationship ending in 1994. Zaremba’s palimony case was dismissed for lack of written agreement, along with claims for emotional distress and that Cliburn subjected him to the fear of AIDS through Cliburn’s alleged unprotected liaisons with third parties.[10][11]
  • In 2004, comedian Bill Maher was sued for US$9 million by his ex-girlfriend, Nancy “Coco” Johnson.[12][13][14] On May 2, 2005, a California Superior Court judge dismissed the case.[15][16][15]

The other omission was the relationship between King and Riggs after the match. After the Battle of the Sexes the two became friends and remained close until his death in 1995. King said she spoke to Riggs the day before he died, and they said “I love you” to each other.

For additional information see or see which cites Selena Roberts’ 2005 book, A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game.





Removing Statues — Changing Stadium Names

The officials running the city of New Orleans decided to remove the public statues of Confederate States of America figures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council sparked both huge protests and large rallies of support. The same historic moments mean heritage to some and bondage and misery to others. The city leaders declared the statues a public nuisance and determined that the pain they inflicted outweighed the heritage they represented. The statues reminded many of their past oppression but also remind people of today’s inequality in New Orleans.

New Orleans is largely segregated. Stagnating wages and gentrification have compounded income disparity here. People in East New Orleans suffer from extremely limited economic and social opportunities and the area has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

In Melbourne, the tennis stadium bears the name of tennis great Margaret Court. The 74-year-old is currently a Christian pastor and has over the past several years made anti-gay statements, including personal attacks on specific players. The comments certainly represent the heritage and attitudes of a segment of the population but have also generated significant opposition and backlash. The majority of professional tennis players have made their support for same-sex marriage known.

Several interesting questions arise from this controversy. Does the Australian Tennis Federation elect to remove Court’s name from the stadium because of the public rancor and hurt she now represents? If they don’t will tennis professional elect to skip the Australian Open? Stay tuned.

Novak Djokovic’s Special On and Off The Court

Novak Djokovic has clearly shown himself to be one of the best men’s tennis players in history. Yesterday’s ninth Grand Slam title moved him into fifth place among title winners in the Open Era and

I find Djokovic attractive physically and as a person. He has demonstrated a great sense of humor and I enjoy that he respects tradition and people and likes to enjoy himself as this video at the Wimbledon party demonstrates:

They have danced before:

Is So You Think you Can Dance too far off in Novak’s future?

Tough Being A Fan

Although athletes have to play the sport, putting their physical and mental prowess on the line, fans have it tougher. All I fan can do is watch, helplessly. It can be grinding on a person and fandom has been known to set some people off to do stupid, sometimes criminal, things.

At the US Open, I felt that agony. Am a big fan of Novak Djokovic, and from what I see, I believe that I like him as a person as much as an athlete. But today’s loss disrupted my support. If the sport were boxing, my first question would be who bet on his opponent. The play stunk and the commentators on television provided little insight. They praised Kei Nishikori, and that was appropriate some of the time, but often Novak hit shots that Kei could make into winners.

iI don’t want the commentators to drag a player through the mud but they could have stated the honest truth, Djokovic played inconsistently. My main question would be, how could Djokovic dominate a set like he did in the second set, then not exploit that in the next set?

Yes, Djokovic said, “He was not himself today,” and that happens sometimes. I still wonder where his fight was, particularly after watching Roger Federer come back from two sets down to win two night ago. I also can understand when someone says that the sport will not be their main focus in life. That is a nice position to be in, as most people don’t care for their work and only work so that they can afford to live. Yet when it comes to winning one of the top tournaments in your sport, a fan expects the player to leave it all out on the court/field, and if a fan questions that, that disrupts the feeling of fan support.

Tennis and Economic Development

How many promises are made about building an area when a new Major League Baseball team, a National Football League team or a National Basketball Association team wants the city to put in a ton of money for a new stadium or arena? Tons.

Authors like Andrew Zimbalast  conclude that sports teams and facilities are not a source of local economic growth and employment; second, the magnitude of the net subsidy exceeds the financial benefit of a new stadium to a team.

The Brookings Institution say the promises are usually not met.

Washington, DC tried this with the Nationals Park as a part of the office buildings and condominiums that sprang up all across the Navy Yard and parts of southeast.

Now the southwest waterfront is the next development area.

The city poured $200 million for infrastructure improvements and a developer began the process of building condominiums. The new tennis stadium is one of the drawing cards to this part of the city.

The team says on its website that the new location will enhance the viewing experience for fans who already consider the Kastles’ home one of the most intimate, exciting tennis venues in the country.

The developers PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette hope and think this 3,000-seat tennis stadium will jump-start a nearly $2 billion, 10-year redevelopment project. The stadium will serve to lure area residents to a waterfront development of hotels, restaurants, shops, a marina with 600 new boat slips and dockside apartments.

Batting for Gays

There are more provacative sportswriters out there than one would believe. Sports are also a great window into cultural and social attitudes.

Racial prejudice openly displayed itself during the early to mid-20th century in restrictions on players in major league baseball and football. In the late 20th century, it came in a more subtle rejection of a League, when baseketball television ratings dropped during the 1970s.

Attacks on gender and sexual difference usually included deriding words. Most players kept their behavior to their self, as we have seen with pro football player Dave Kopay, and Washington Redskins all-pro Jerry Smith in the 1970s and 1980s and Billy Bean among baseball players in the 1990s.  Magic Johnson faced gossip after contracting HIV- and Isiah Thomas raised eyebrows with his kissing.

While female tennis players like Martina Navatrola and Renae Stubbs,and  rugby player Gareth Thomas came out after years, most were finished playing. Ian Roberts of Australian Rules Football declared his sexuality but articles have recently asked why few have followed and Jason Akermanis was recently suspended for anti-gay comments.

I include below sportwriter Jason Whitlock’s recent piece on the travails of an openly gay umpire.


Let’s start with transparency. The analogy comparing black people’s fight for equal rights and gay people’s makes me uncomfortable.

You can’t conceal skin color in a closet or anywhere else. Denying gay people the right to marry doesn’t equate to denying black people freedom, the right to vote, equal education, etc.

Umpire Billy Van Raaphorst 

Umpire Billy Van Raaphorst.

Edmonton Journal 

But I am not a fool. Discrimination is discrimination. Debating degrees of intolerance is pointless and counter-productive.

What happened to Billy Van Raaphorst inside a tiny independent league baseball stadium on July 31 was as despicable as anything Jackie Robinson endured breaking into the majors 60 years ago.

And the story of how Billy Van Raaphorst’s childhood dream of becoming a Major League umpire turned into his nightmare companion illustrates how little progress we’ve made in the super-macho sports world as it relates to tolerance of homosexuals.

On the last day of July, for the second straight game, Van Raaphorst tossed flamboyant Edmonton Capitals manager Brent Bowers in the first inning.

Bowers argued balls and strikes from the dugout on the 30th. A close play at first base set him off on the 31st. On both days, Bowers played to the crowd, rolling up his sleeves and mocking the 6-foot-4, 220-lb Van Raaphorst with a “gun show.”

On the 31st, Bowers took things a step further, launching into an anti-gay tirade that would make Mel Gibson blush.

“You know what I heard?” Bowers screamed. “I heard you are a f—ing (expletive). The rumor from several managers and people at the league is that you are a (expletive) … So what do you do you f—ing (expletive)? Do you take it up the f—ing (expletive), you (expletive)?”

As his verbal meltdown continued, Bowers, a second-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, bent over and grabbed his ankles.

“Is that how you like it, you f—ing (expletive)?… I know he’s a (expletive),’’ Bowers ranted. “I was told by Garry Templeton (a manager in the league) and Kevin Outcalt (commissioner of the league) that he is a f—ing (expletive).”

Van Raaphorst, a former 290-pound center at San Diego State, resisted the urge to defend himself.

“I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t hit him,’” Van Raaphorst remembered. “I felt trapped. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.”

How appropriate. Van Raaphorst, 34, spent much of his early life trapped by his sexual orientation.

The middle son of former Ohio State and San Diego Chargers kicker Dick Van Raaphorst, Billy was born into the stereotypical, All-American family. His oldest brother, Jeff, starred at quarterback for Arizona State, winning the 1987 Rose Bowl MVP. Billy’s younger brother, Mike, served as Carson Palmer’s backup at USC.

The Van Raaphorst name carried and carries significant weight in Southern California. Billy was not coming out of any closet.
As a kid, he played football and fantasized about calling balls and strikes inside big league ballparks.

He was a good enough player to crack the two-deep and start a few games at San Diego State. He shared a locker room with Kyle Turley, Ephraim Salaam, La’Roi Glover, Az Hakim and several other future pros.

Billy never quite fit in.

“We all kind of assumed there was something different about Billy,” Turley said. “Billy was a good dude, a good teammate, a stand-up guy, but he was just a different cat. There was always something a little quirky about him. He was never the macho, alpha male.”

Van Raaphorst dislocated his right knee his fourth year at San Diego State, quit the team and immediately pursued his passion for umpiring. He enrolled at the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, the Harvard of umpiring. He graduated No. 1 in his class. He joined the minor league system and began the arduous task of earning his way to the majors.

Things sailed along smoothly until he reached double-A ball in 2001. His ranking plummeted to No. 27. The next year he dropped to No. 45 out of 47 umpires and was released from the minors.

He said his dramatic fall coincided with his decision to live as a gay man.

“I knew I was gay pretty much all my life, but I’d never acted on it until 2001,” Billy told me on Monday. “I’d suppressed it so hard trying to fit in in college football and minor league baseball. I’d never been to a gay bar until 2001. I’d never had a boyfriend.”

He visited a gay bar in early 2001. He started dating a Tulsa man later that year. He began lying to his umpiring crew about his post-game activities and whereabouts instantly.

“I can’t prove that they found out, but it’s my belief they did,” Van Raaphorst said. “I started getting a lot of questions about who I was dating.”

He crashed in double A. An umpire isn’t on the major league radar until he reaches triple A.

“It’s a significant accomplishment and speaks to his talent that he reached the double A level,” said Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. “There are only 68 major league umpires. It’s a select group.”

Billy wanted to complain and fight his 2002 release.

“There were certain family members and friends who didn’t want all of the attention that would’ve brought,” said Van Raaphorst, who is now regarded as a top-flight collegiate umpire. “The worst two decisions of my life were to not come out (as gay) and to end my (Tulsa) relationship because I was scared.

“I don’t make decisions out of fear anymore. I try to make fearless decisions now.”

Good for Billy. Bad for Brent Bowers.
The Golden Baseball League initially suspended Bowers for two games and fined him $500. The punishment did not satisfy Billy or common sense. Umpires across the GBL rallied in support of Billy and threatened a work stoppage. The league and the Edmonton Capitals forced Bowers to resign.

“I wish I had those 10 minutes back,” Bowers said from his home in Chicago. “It was just heat of the moment. I felt like (Van Raaphorst) hurt me and hurt my team, kicking me out of the game two days in a row. It doesn’t justify it. It was totally wrong. I apologize. I would apologize to anybody. I’ve grown up so much in the past week.”

The Edmonton Capitals announced they were making all of their employees go through diversity training. They might want to make room for a former employee.

“I didn’t care that (Van Raaphorst) was gay,” explained Bowers, who has yet to apologize directly to Van Raaphorst. “My mom works with a lot of gay hairdressers and I joke around with those guys all the time. My cousin, she’s a lesbian. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as people are happy.”

Let’s end with transparency.

I’ve been the neanderthal idiot in the locker room. I’ve been the neanderthal idiot employee suspended and banished to diversity training after a 1998 taunting exchange with New England Patriots fans.

Intolerance is a disease, whether sexual, religious or racial, that we all must fight on a daily basis. The cure is for each of us to realize we’re all capable of being just as stupid as Brent Bowers.


E-mail Jason or follow him on Twitter. Media requests for Mr. Whitlock should be directed to Fox Sports PR.

DC Tennis Summer 09

First Venus Williams came. Now it’s sister Serena’s turn.

The World Team Tennis Washington Kastles reconstructed their temporary stadium on the old Convention Center parking lot three weeks ago. Serena plays with her team tonight in her only DC appearance.

The sport is odd. The season lasts one month. Somesports have a playoff seasdon that lasts two months. With WTT you get to see the matches then before you kow it, your team’s in the playoffs and then the playoffs are over.

DC’s Tennis Stadium

The Washington Kastles stadium is a throwback stadium. No, it’s not retro a la Camden Yards and its many imitators that cost hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars.

It’s throw back because it is simply a playing surface and a few stands erected around that surface. The stadium stands on a small portion of the old Convention Center lot, on New York Avenue near 11th Street, NW. This is the way baseball was in Washington during the early 1880s when Capitol Park sat on the Capital Grounds or when the Nationals played at Florida Avenue and 7th Street in the 1890s.

The stadium is a temporary structure and goes up quickly and at a small cost. The location is near many offices and highly accessible to both the Metro and the buses. Spectators can grab dinner at any of the many nearby eateries after work then walk on over to see the tennis. Last night I saw many looking at the art exhibit that lined the walkway on the stadium’s east side. The pieces are photographs commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts. One critic’s favorite was The Memory of Tomorrow, by Ira Tattelman and Thomas Drymon, is another terrific mural — the photograph of a wedding explores the body, light, time, and space, and the active quality of the image makes you feel as though you’re a part of the wedding itself.

Kastles stadium, Washington DC

Kastles stadium, Washington DC