Wins, losses and celebrations seem like they should be cut and dried in sports. As it turns out, they are all relative.
The Gophers men's basketball team, for instance, has lost seven of its past eight conference games. Before that, though, Minnesota had won 16 of its first 20 games overall this season. Add it up for a record of 17-11 -- not bad if you were to come to it without any knowledge of how it accrued. But of course that team is bearing the brunt of local fans' ire.
The Caltech men's basketball team, on the other hand, is 1-310 in its past 311 conference games. And they are the darlings of the college hoops world. Timing, as always, is everything.
Caltech, in case you missed it, won a conference game last week for the first time since 1985 -- defeating Occidental 46-45. The hero of the game was senior Ryan Elmquist of Woodbury, who played all 40 minutes and scored 23 points, including the game-winning free throw, in his final college game.
"It was pretty crazy," Elmquist said Sunday. "We got lots of e-mails from ex-players who were part of the streak, and a lot of people came up to me in Pasadena."
On its basketball website, Caltech -- short for California Institute of Technology -- is quick to point out that the school enrolls only 950 undergrad students and has 31 alumni or faculty that have won the Nobel Prize. It is a science and engineering school; Elmquist has a postgraduate job lined up with Google.
A write-up on the school's website noted all the media flocking to the story from the New York Times, ESPN and beyond. It contained this precious line: "Probably for the first time in Caltech's illustrious history of Nobel Prizes and brilliant students and faculty, there was a press conference in the gym."
Indeed, it's all relative. At a Division III school like Caltech where sports are a pleasant diversion, one victory can become national news. At a Big Ten school like Minnesota, where sports have become so tied to identity and public perception, that just isn't the case.
And though the Gophers would probably defeat Caltech 999 out of 1,000 times, you can rest assured which game would be the most meaningful.
"I can't think of a better way to go out," Elmquist said. "It's been unreal so far."