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View Full Version : Why was tennis so popular in the 1970's?


goober
08-29-2004, 03:05 PM
I have been reading that hey day of tennis as far as the American public is concerned was the 1970's when 35 million people played.

Why was tennis so popular back then? It seems like with wooden racquets the sport would have turned a lot of people off with how demanding it was to learn. Any insights old timers? 8)

J D
08-29-2004, 03:41 PM
The 70's really was the time when tennis exploded in the US. Finding an empty court was almost impossible. This was the time of aluminum and steel (T-2000) racquets. The country was into a fitness frenzy and tennis was much more fun than jogging. Neighborhood gyms and aerobics wouldn't come along until the 80's. Other sports that many now play, including soccer and racquetball, hadn't become popular yet. Golf was too expensive, time consuming, and difficult for the average person (if you think tennis with wooden racquets is tough, try playing a round of golf sometime with a set of the heavy, small headed, and unforgiving clubs from the 70's). There were no DVD's, VCR's, home computers, or video games to distract people. Only about 5% of the country even had cable TV. Also, Jimmy Conners and Chris Everett exploded on the scene and became overnight celebrities.

In other words, the county was in need of a national past-time and tennis became it for a little while. It's hard to imagine that circumstances will ever conspire in the US again for tennis to regain the popularity it once had. And watch that old-timer stuff or I'll have to take you out to the court and teach you to respect your elders ;-)

Skinny Dip
08-29-2004, 09:26 PM
Nice analysis JD. I never thought of it that way before - I always figured it had more to do with the amazing personalities around the time. Borg's chick appeal, Nastasies middle finger, Conners showmanship, and Mac's court ettiquete and of course afro.

And of course the subplots of Billie Jean King beating a washed up tennis hustler (hyper-hyped as the war of the sexes), and Arthur Ash as the grand gentleman and unifier of the sport.

Somehow tennis just seemed to perfectly mirror the fads, social changes, excesses and general gestalt of the times.

Camilio Pascual
08-30-2004, 05:34 AM
Agree with above. The Evert-Connors romance hooked some interest. I think Vic Braden was on PBS giving lessons for Everyman. The first Baby boomers hit 30 in 1976 with a huge bunch of us in our 20's with more money and time than other 20 something generations had. The Virginia Slims participation in the tour (smoke AND be healthy!!!) enticed a lot of females into the game. Zen tennis was big, presumably Buddhism was the way to go for a tennis player!

Deuce
09-01-2004, 10:15 PM
The explanation is that this culture, and the people who inhabit it, have changed radically over the past 30 to 35 years.

The 70s... Tennis was popular because back then, people still enjoyed personal challenge, which is what playing with a heavy wood racquet produced. People in them days were tougher. There were no wimpy conviences like push-button phones (let alone cellular phones), remote controls, cable television, computers, motion sensitive doors, microwave ovens.... People were used to putting out effort and, in turn, being rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. In today's push-button culture, people are happiest when there is no effort required - and so, no reward received. The priorities today are Ease and Convenience, which effectively stifle any meaningful fulfillment.

Essentially, tennis - even with the big, feather light racquets - is too difficult for today's people to play. Too much effort is required.

Kobble
09-02-2004, 12:09 AM
I like the track many of you are on. Your right Deuce, the effort the average person is willing to put out stinks. The obescity problem indicates it clearly. I don't know if many people know it, probably because the people who remember it died, but most of the first gyms were basically gymnastics equipment and free weights. No machines, gimmicks, or easy ways out. If you wanted endurance you ran. If you wanted to get strong, you got up on the still rings. Since, most people found it too hard those gyms disappeared. Now, we don't even have real gyms, we have health clubs. The new wave of physical activity is not only less effective for health benefits, but is a sure route to death by boredom. I personally refuse to die from boredom, not on my clock.