It was little more than an afterthought in the 24 hour news cycle of sports activity. Some newspaper sites and other sites reporting on sports ran short pieces about the game. Many ignored the game entirely. The vast majority of the people no doubt have no idea what took place a few days ago in the metro Los Angeles area.
Yet a Division III men’s basketball game was played in Pasadena that, in its own way, was more epic than the UConn women’s basketball team breaking the UCLA men’s all-time record for consecutive wins, which they did back in January, 2011. On a mid-winter’s night in a high school caliber gym before maybe 200 fans the Caltech men’s team broke their 310 game consecutive games conference losing streak by surviving a last second shot attempt to defeat Occidental College 46-45.
The team known as the Beavers had not won a California Collegiate Athletic Conference game since January 23, 1985. The team had lost 207 consecutive games in all competitions before defeating Bard College of New York in 2007. The 2009-2010 team upheld the college’s dubious athletic reputation by going 0-25.
By winning their season finale the Beavers finished this season with a 5-20 record, the school’s best record in 15 years. “I hope that everyone who has participated in Caltech men’s basketball is able to celebrate a little bit tonight,” said head coach Oliver Eslinger. “We still have goals and aspirations that we want to accomplish as a program and this win is another step towards meeting those objectives”.
In a society that venerates winning and quickly forgets those who don’t win the Caltech team has long been a topic of derision and scorn. Supporters of the school much prefer to focus on the fact that some 31 alumni and faculty have won a Nobel Prize over the years.
Caltech’s players will go on to make their marks in life doing something other than playing basketball. In the larger scheme of things, perhaps winning prizes for discoveries in physics or for developing new software programs that help doctors fight disease are far more important achievements than being able to brag in later years about winning basketball championships.
Perhaps it takes a lot more courage and determination to continue playing hard while constantly losing games than it does to give 100% for an NCAA tournament team. In any event, for one night the Caltech players, coaches and fans were able to bask in the glory of being winners on the court as well as in the classroom. Perhaps they deserve a ticker tape parade even more than the team that will win this season’s NCAA Division I Men’s tournament. They certainly deserve our respect.
Greg Tyler is the Editor of The Sport Digest. He is also the Library Director/Archivist for the Academy. He frequently re-works timely pieces of sport news and provides links to articles of interest for readers.