Last night I got a chance to go see Quantum Hoops which is playing at the Landmark Metro in Seattle for a limited time. For those who haven’t heard of this movie, “Quantum Hoops” is a documentary about the Caltech basketball team, which currently owns the longest losing streak without a conference win in NCAA basketball (22 years.) The movie is narrated by David Duchovny, and, with the exception of an opening “old time cinema” introduction to Caltech, is actually quite enjoyable. Of course I’m biased. Not only did I go to Caltech as an undergrad (and returned as a postdoc) and thus knew some of the people in the film (“Gillllbeaaar!”), but my grandfather went to Caltech, graduating in 1934, where he played on championship football teams while at Caltech.
My grandfather was immensely proud of three things at Caltech. One was that he was on those championship football teams (and played beside Bob Sharpe who would go on to become a very famous geologist. He along with Sharpe and another fellow were one of three who played varsity football as underclassmen.) The other was that he survived Caltech (these were the days before a high dropout rate was considered bad for a university!) And the final was that he met Einstein while he was at Caltech. Apparently Einstein was outside sunning himself and just enjoying life and so my grandfather went up and started talking to him. Caltech can probably blame my grandfather for Einstein moving to Princeton 🙂
Back to the movie. The story chronicles a season of Caltech basketball with a team that, instead of losing by an average of sixty points a game, was actually losing by twenty or ten points. It looks like another losing season for Caltech, until the very last game of the season… The movie is full of lots of images of basketball teams past (like the amazing sports teams at Caltech during World War II, whose players went on to great fame in life, besides having a football season where they were undefeated and unscored upon. Can you believe there were days when Caltech beat UCLA?) For Techers this movie will be greatly amusing, but the story really is gripping, with an amazing amount of drama for a story about geeks playing hoops, and thus I suspect even a wider audience will find much to love about this story of struggle in the face of very long odds.