Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Bound together in blood and glory

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

King and Riggs played out sport's most famous battle of the sexes in 1973 before a crowd of 30,000 and a television audience of millions - a game that overshadows King's career but rejuvenates Riggs'.

This has been called the most famous tennis match ever. The 55-year-old Riggs, a 1930-40s star, taunted female tennis and drew a first response from Margaret Court, the Aussie world No1, who he beat easily. But Riggs, a playful hustler, was no match for the 29-year-old King in a $100,000 winner-take-all-contest at the Houston Astrodome.

A jubilant King - who sought tactical advice from Court - teased Riggs, calling him "Roberta". Her fans yelled: "Atta Boy, Billie." King and Riggs became friends, King telling him "I love you" in a phone call the night before he died of cancer in 1995.

Jonah Lomu and Mike Catt

Catt wasn't a bad rugby player but his career lives under a 125kg shadow. Rookie All Black wing Lomu thundered through the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. His four-try demolition of England in the Newlands semifinal started when he charged around two defenders, stumbled, then poleaxed Catt.

The fullback's tackle was more a backward somersault, but if he made little contact with Lomu at the time the pair have been inseparable in sporting minds ever since.

Catt once said: "The trouble is, no one remembers me running over Stephen Larkham." Correct.

Nick Faldo and Greg Norman

The common view is that Norman beat himself in the 1996 Masters but the presence of the ice-cool Faldo - a major-title specialist - as his playing partner didn't help. Norman led by six going into the final round and his meltdown was so comprehensive that Faldo led by the 12th.

It was agonising to watch, even if you didn't like Norman, and a lot of people didn't. True to form, Norman reminded the world that while having "screwed up" he was still worth $40 million. Who says money can't buy happiness? The pair shed a tear at the end, hugged, and Faldo whispered sweet nothings in the Aussie's ear, telling him not to let the "bastards" [media] get him down.

They are mates now and go fishing - bonded by the one that got away.

Zola Budd and Mary Decker

South African Budd was fast-tracked into the British team for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, thus beating the international ban imposed on her native country because of apartheid.

So Budd was controversial before she got tangled with American star Decker in the 3000m final. Decker crashed into the infield, where she sobbed and squirmed. Budd, who ran barefoot, drifted out of contention as the crowd booed and Decker dismissed her attempt at a post-race apology. The American remained bitter, even though Budd was exonerated of official blame.

Time has healed the wounds, slightly, but bad blood remains on this track.

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods

Many kids put posters of heroes on their bedroom wall. Tiger stuck the Nicklaus record of 18 major victories on his as a sort of mission statement for life. The pair will never meet in battle but are entwined forever, so blatant was Woods about pursuing the Nicklaus mark. The contest has taken a few dramatic twists of late. The pursuer is deep in the rough - mired in personal crisis and injury. Nicklaus looks increasingly safe in the club house.

Harold Larwood and Don Bradman

There was a third person in this famous relationship. England's captain Douglas Jardine was the man whose plans cut the brilliant Bradman down to size when the Ashes hostilities resumed on their 1932-33 tour of Australia. The bodyline series may be sport's greatest controversy.

Larwood's beautiful action was employed in an ugly war as a barrage of bouncers flew Australia's way, with fielders stacked near the bat on the leg side. Mission accomplished - England won 4-1. Bradman was hit by Larwood just once but his average took a severe hit and, ultimately, cost him a career mark of over 100. Bradman, arrogant as ever, called Larwood a chucker. Nothing, it seemed, could separate the pair - when Larwood was injured in the final test, Jardine refused to let him leave the field until Bradman was out.

Snubbed by England, Larwood was Australia's most unlikely new settler in 1950. His mementos included an ashtray from Jardine, a trophy for his role in collecting the Ashes. Peace pipes were in short supply.

Kevin Tamati and Greg Dowling

The Kiwi and Aussie rugby-league props were sinbinned after a brouhaha at Brisbane and, boy, did they sin in the bin with a wild exchange of punches on the sideline. The first few rounds were caught on television before coverage was suspended. Tamati once told the Southland Times: "I played for New Zealand for seven years, 22 tests, 34 games. I had ball-playing skills and defence skills, and the only thing they keep showing is the Greg Dowling fight." Well, it was kind of unusual.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier

The most famous duo of them all. Three brutal heavyweight contests damaged both men. Their antagonism might last to this day in Frazier's corner, although it is difficult to decipher what either says any more. Frazier, at last count, ran an answerphone message which claimed responsibility for Ali's failing health. If that seems cruel, it is no more so than Ali's taunts towards his opponents years ago. Ali won the series 2-1 but in hindsight this almost seems incidental when viewing two men who will never be kept apart.

- NZ Herald

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