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What Midnight Madness is like . . . at Cal Tech

Should Cal Tech have midnight midness? You decide.

A men's team that has not won a conference game in 25 years — it is 0-297 during that time — ran onto the floor accompanied by one cheerleader, the school's only cheerleader, and only on nights when he doesn't have a lot of homework. The overworked guy wore spiked orange hair, orange short-shorts, striped orange socks and an exhausted smile.

"Excuse me, but the correct term is 'Cheermaster,' " said senior Kyle Verdone. "I dress up like an idiot and dance, so I've earned it."

A women's team with a program record of 42-269 took the floor to wild cheers from a crowd of students, some of whom could have joined the squad on the spot. Four of this year's players, you see, have never even played high school basketball. . . .

It's easy to cheer when your team is Duke. It's harder to cheer when your team's operative word is "Duck!" The only thing that comes close to matching these Caltech kids' brains, it seems, is their backbone.

"This was amazing," said men's Coach Oliver Eslinger, who devised the Midnight Madness. "This shows the importance of community to these kids. This shows the optimism and belief in all of us."