Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Spare Parts


We all love underdog stories, don’t we? From Rocky to Pitch Perfect, it doesn’t much matter what the competition is, it’s great to see the underdog put the smug favorites in their place. This is one of the better ones, and it seems they have taken remarkably few liberties with it. It’s the story of a team of young men from Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, which is 90% Hispanic and, from what we see, must be about 89% “illegals.” You know, those shiftless, lazy wetback spics who are flooding over here to take jobs that Americans are too busy to take. These are their children, and many of them have no memories of Mexico at all. At any moment they can be ripped away from their families, or have their families ripped apart. Arizona is one of the absolute worst states in that regard … and proud of it! Fuck all of you, Arizona Republicans.

Anyway, these educationally deprived young men design and build a remotely operated underwater vehicle and enter it in a competition. It would be remarkable enough if they had entered in the high school division, but no, that would be too easy. They went up against about forty colleges, the likes of Virginia Tech, Cornell, and the mighty MIT. Those guys (and gals) were spending around $20,000 on their ROVs. Carl Hayden spent less than $800. That forced them into imaginative solutions to engineering problems.

It’s a simple story with the usual conflicts. George Lopez doesn’t want to be a teacher, really, but the boys need him. There is an obstructive father. Maybe true, maybe not, but they show the actual competition in a huge swimming pool, and it feels real to me. Those were the best parts. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker; Lee used up several tissues. We liked it a lot.

At the end there is a roundup of what became of the team. One of them attained citizenship and has been highly honored here and there, including a trip to the White House. But the other three are still illegals, and that stands in the way of just about everything.

And oh, yeah … if you thought it was a fluke, Carl Hayden came back the next year and whipped MIT butt again.

The Sugarland Express (1974) Inspired by real events … but based only very loosely on them.