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Original Issue

Beautiful Mind Games

A documentary follows Caltech's brainiac basketball team

Directed by Rick Greenwald

THE CALTECHbasketball team lost 243 consecutive SCIAC conference games between 1985 and2007—a period of time during which Caltech gave us nine Nobel Prize winners,Washington gave us four presidential administrations, and Hollywood gave usthree Revenge of the Nerds sequels. The struggle of the Beavers' senior classof 2006 to snap their hoops losing streak is documented in the endearing newdocumetary Quantum Hoops.

Thedweeb-versus-jock dynamic has been a favorite of Hollywood for years, primarilybecause it affords the opportunity for wacky sight gags, crass jokesand—especially in films made in the 1980s—gratuitous shots of showeringcheerleaders. (Really, it's a can't-miss formula.) Inevitably, the celluloiddorks prevail when they discover that they can use their bookishness to theiradvantage. Who can forget Louis, Gilbert, Booger and the rest of the boys inthe original Revenge of the Nerds—the gold standard by which brain-versus-brawnfilms are judged—constructing a javelin designed to soar through the air whentossed with an especially limp-wristed throwing motion?

So when the camerafollows Caltech's David Liu into a lab, where he says, "With liquidnitrogen, you can do a lot of things that are quite fun," one can't helpbut envision the 5'9" Liu surreptitiously freezing the opposing team'shigh-tops before a big game. Of course, that never happens, because this isreal life, and in real-life games, as Quantum Hoops reminds viewers repeatedly,brains can only take you so far. There's a reason why Albert Einstein, whotaught at Caltech, isn't remembered for his basketball prowess: Understandingthe physics of a bank shot is one thing; successfully executing the maneuver ina crowded lane is quite another.

If there's onething Quantum Hoops, which is narrated in perfect low-key fashion by Princetongrad David Duchovny, is missing, it's a sense of urgency. There's not much onthe line here. It's clear from the opening scene—a montage of errant passes andbricked shots set to The Blue Danube waltz—that this isn't Hoop Dreams; you'repretty sure the Beavers are going to land on their feet when their playing daysare over, making a lot of money doing something the rest of us probably can'tpronounce, let alone grasp. (At Caltech—which plays in Division III, wherethere are no athletic scholarships—the 2006 team had eight valedictorians andonly six players with high school basketball experience.)

And still themovie succeeds, because it's hard not to feel for the players—especially whensenior guard (and applied physics major) Scott Davies plaintively says, "Ireally want to win a game." No one likes losing, not even kids whosemothers had to force them to get their noses out of books and go outside toplay.

Radio Waves

BALTIMOREANS WERE buzzing about the Orioles last week;alas the chatter concerned DH Aubrey Huff's drop-by on the Bubba the LoveSponge Show on Sirius. Huff (right) played down to Bubba's Howard Stern--ishsensibilities. He helped body-paint porn star Melissa Midwest and went intographic detail about his downtime on the road. (Let's just say he's fond ofwatching films in his hotel room and enjoying the pleasure of his own company.)He also called Baltimore a "horse—town," a remark that presumably wouldincur O's fans' wrath. Not quite: In a Baltimore Sun online poll, 88% said Huffshould not be disciplined for his off-color comments.


CHRISTMAS CAME early for those who catch stadiumbratwursts tossed from three sections away and then ask the vendor for therecipe. Concessionaire Delaware North Companies Sportservice has released HomePlate, a cookbook featuring meals served at sports venues. (It's available The dishes range from luxury-suite fare (ComericaPark's eggplant rollatini) to simple bleacher snacks (the recipe for theChicago Hot Dog boils down to "steam hot dog, add toppings"). Foodiesmight make better use of Gordon Ramsay's latest offering, but Home Plate willbe invaluable for your next intimate dinner for 18,000.



DOING THE MATH The 2006 Beavers were on a quest to win their first conference game in two decades.