"Billie did indeed become the very best," the Voice-Over of Once-Upon-A-Time tells us. We see slow shots of Holly Hunter as Billie Jean, smacking tennis balls around and playing with competitive aggression. "Every great fighter needs a great opponent. Her greatest rival of all was a forgotten old champ named Bobby Riggs."
Bobby Riggs (as played by Ron Silver) is a puffy, bespectacled man in his fifties, with hair that's balding in the scraggliest way and unfortunate teeth. He's the spitting image of an aged Austin Powers, but with the slurry, salivated voice of Garry Marshall. He's such a turn-off that I actually need to go take a hot shower. Clearly in his element, old Bobby is sitting at a backgammon table but betting on a tennis match. "I'll raise the stakes to five hundred bucks," he offers, saying he'll only serve once and the other player can count the alleys as "in" territory. "I'm an old fart, I need the excitement!" Bobby wheedles. In fact, he offers to throw in a never-before-attempted handicap, and we see a smiling, strapping, tan blond man staring at Bobby -- it's Lorney Kuhle, his bookie and "practice partner." Lorney is dutifully scribbling down the terms of Bobby's bet. Outside on the court, we see Bobby's wacky antics -- he's playing in a raincoat, boots, and hat, and holding a huge umbrella. He still wins the point. Bet over. "Kid, that was terrific," he smarms, then flips the umbrella over and starts collecting winnings. "Celebrity tax time," he crows, strutting in front of the onlookers.
"Bobby and Billie only played one match against each other," The Voice-Over Of There-Was-A-Little-Girl-Called-Billie says. "But when it was over, the world would never be the same." We see a split-screen -- Bobby is paunchy and aging, and Billie is young, taut, fit, vivacious. Unfortunately, she's also sporting a nifty half-mullet that's so carefully styled, it almost eludes recognition as a mullet. It's the top of the line. If it were meat, it would be mulét mignon.
The caption reads, "1972, when feminism was still considered a dirty word." We're at the Championships at Wimbledon, one of tennis's grand-slam tournaments, "where women are still ladies," the screen says. Two well-groomed women -- the kind who, at their mothers' behests, "perspire" rather than "sweat" -- curtsey calmly in the direction of the Royal Family. Charmed, I'm sure. There's garden parties everywhere, with women in flowing dresses and ornate hats, sipping tea and delicately munching on strawberries and cream. La-di-da. A blonde woman serves in her tennis match, and we see it three times in slow-motion from different angles, so as to maximize the effect of her flowing tresses flapping in the wind like a Femininity Flag. Or a Pert Plus ad. Tennis skirts were short, but the bloomers were thick, ruffly, and very modest. Outside, Margaret Court -- the number-one player at that time -- is accosted by media as she steps from her car, husband and son in tow. "Such a lovely player," a watching crone coos. A man remarks that it's amazing Margaret's husband doesn't mind "following her around" all the time. "They're Australian," the woman says, by way of explanation. Yeah, they're in a different, lower hemisphere, those loony Aussies, so everything's backwards in society. Next out of a car is pretty young Chris "Chrissie" Evert. A reporter asks why she's so popular, and she posits that her game is appealing because it isn't as aggressive as many of the current female players. The reporter says that means she's bringing femininity back to the sport, and was that her goal? "My goal is to win Wimbledon," she deflects. The crone oohs, "Such a darling."