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Bad Luck B-Ballers, With High Acumens and a 200-Plus Game Losing Streak
By Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel
February 8, 2008

David Duchovny narrates this amusing and light-hearted documentary by Rick Greenwald about the California Institute of Technology's Beavers men's college basketball team, which hasn't won an NCAA Division III intra-conference game since January 24, 1985 -- that's right, 23 years and counting -- yet is highly proficient at engineering, which is Cal Tech's bread and butter. "Quantum Hoops" opened today in Berkeley, California, for an exclusive one-week run. (The film will open next month in Boston for a one-week run beginning on March 28.)

Most of the players on Cal Tech Beavers team have no high school experience. Most of the team's coaches have been rewarded for losing seasons -- after all, what use is it to fire a coach when his team has lost more than 240 consecutive conference games, games of any kind, over the years? (Well, Cal Tech did win one game -- on January 11, 2007 -- outside the conference, but at this stage, does that really matter??)

"Quantum Hoops" is a cute documentary that tracks the history of Cal Tech back from the late 1890's whence it originated. The Southern California campus located near its upper echelon neighbors UCLA (who have won more NCAA Division I men's college basketball championship titles in a decade than Cal Tech has won regular season games in more than 23 years.

Mr. Greenwald shows his audience that his documentary isn't about winning and losing, it is about a journey. Indeed, the film borrows a quote from tennis legend Arthur Ashe along those lines.

There are interviews with alumnae that came close to winning intra-conference games, and with those members of the 1984-85 team that won the last conference game. The segment, complete with archival video, shows the last winning shot that gave Cal Tech its January 1985 victory. The scene swirling around the victory is wistful and nostalgic.

Alumnae from the Cal Tech 1950's teams talk about the good old days, when championships in Division III were plentiful. One grizzled member of the 1950's team has even been busy trying to break Guinness World Records for consecutive free throws -- which he has successfully executed -- with something like 20,000 free throws, or something like that.

"Quantum Hoops" is created in such a way that you actually don't feel sorry for the Cal Tech men's basketball team, whose campus has a male to female ratio of 4:1. They are a happy-go-lucky bunch, and have too much fun working and losing basketball games to take it all to heart. Sure, it's no fun being a loser, especially when that conference losing streak has stretched to 23 years, but all one can really do is laugh. After all, getting mad isn't the healthiest thing. Getting better is, and "Quantum Hoops" can't get much better than this.

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