Billie Jean King
Premieres nationwide Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) to commemorate 40th anniversaries of King v. Riggs “The Battle of the Sexes” match & founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and equal prize money
Billie Jean King Q&A
1) What do you think of today’s sports landscape, particularly with respect to the current media landscape?
Billie Jean King: Distribution and content are the two most powerful words in today’s discussion on sports and media. Consumers want sports; they want it now and they are demanding their connection to sports be more interactive, personal and participatory. The more immediate the product, the better for the fan. No longer do you have to wait until Sunday to be entertained by sports. It is all about being in the moment — for the athlete and for the fan.
2) What was your career highlight/favorite moment? Is there anything you would do differently?
King: I’m not anywhere near done with my career so I don’t think I have yet lived my career highlight. As far as my tennis career goes, winning three World TeamTennis titles and representing my country as a player and Captain of the Fed Cup teams (international team tennis for women) will always be special moments for me. I am much more interested in competing as part of a team than as an individual. There are a few things I would have done differently, but as I said in the American Masters film, I wish I would not have quit playing singles in 1975. I still had at least one good year of singles and several strong competitive years of doubles left in me, and I wish I had stayed playing for a while longer.
3) You are still very active in the tennis world with World TeamTennis (WTT), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Women’s Sports Foundation. Do you miss playing competitively & is it ever hard for you to watch others play?
King: I don’t miss playing competitively at all. I was fortunate to have a full cycle of life in professional tennis and the sport is still a big part of my life. I actually have fun watching others play and I watch tennis as much as I can. I want to hit the ball for the players on the court. Frequently I find myself in a coaching position and asking myself what I would do if I was in their position or what would I do to help them through a point.
4) What do you tell young players who ask for your advice?
King: I would ask more questions than anything. It is important for any player — young or old — to hear their own voice and learn to use their own voice. They need to be part of the process and it always has to be about them and not about the coach or the mentor.
5) Do you think celebrities should be political?
King: I think every person has a right to be political, if they want. Often celebrities get more attention because they are so visible and so much in the public spotlight. You have to be careful to make your own decisions and evaluations because your vote counts just as much as the next person’s vote.
6) You’ve been on PBS many times before, but how do you feel about being featured on the American Masters series?
King: In all honesty I feel a little odd about it and I am still getting used to it. The film is very revealing and brings up so many pivotal moments in my life that I am reliving some of it each time I watch the film. It is gratifying to be the first athlete profiled in the 27-year history of the American Masters series, and as a woman and a gay woman, I hope my story will inspire others to live their truth.
7) What are your favorite PBS shows?
King: I am a longtime supporter of public television and a huge fan of Downton Abbey and anything connected to Masterpiece Theatre. Usually I trend toward non-fiction over fiction, so pieces like Ken Burns’ series, NOVA, Frontline and American Experience are at the top of my list.