Welcome to the eight edition of the Marble League at the wonderfully constructed Beehive stadium of Team Bumblebees. We have today’s event, the triathlon, soon commencing. Consisting of three different types of terrain that the teams must navigate, it requires rigorous amounts of training, and we shall soon find out who has mustered enough strength to triumph…
Marble League (formerly MarbleLympics) is a competition of multiple events with teams of four to five marbles battling for victory. It spoofs the Olympics with the different teams representing nations. At the moment, the Marble League consists of 18 events in total. These events are divided into three categories. Individual events have one marble from a team going against other marbles. In the team events all marbles must perform together to get the best score. Lastly, there are sports where two teams of marbles battle each other simultaneously. There’s a scoreboard which tracks the performance of the teams, and the one who performs most consistently in all events is crowned champions at the end.
The starting signal for the triathlon event sounds and the marbles are off! Snowstorm from team Snowballs edges into first place in the track portion of the triathlon. But not far behind are Glimmer and Mimo, trying fiercely to close the gap. With some clever manoeuvring around the edges of the course by the chasing marbles, all four teams come almost neck-to-neck to the sand part of the race…
As a sporting event, nothing is left to chance. You have stadiums full of marble-fans cheering the different teams, an array of camera angles with tracking shots and instant replays, even a commentator (Greg Woods) delivering real-time narration. The attention to detail is simply breath-taking, while also deliciously over-the-top. This is evidenced by having all the marbles individually named, with most having punny names related to their team’s colour.
How does it work in practice you ask? All the courses are slightly downhill, so the marbles gain momentum and can therefore build up speed and bypass other competitors. They can (and will) collide into walls, obstacles, and other marbles, which will greatly affect the race in question.
The biggest joke of it all is that all the marbles are identical, just differently coloured. There are no abilities that make any team better than the other in any event. It’s all down to pure luck. On paper it’s ridiculous, even silly. But once you get to see the marbles going into action in the different events, it becomes this mesmerizing gallop of spinning circular shapes with immense immersion. It isn’t mocking sports or people watching sports, but at the same time I feel it’s making gentle winks at the viewer, in a way saying, “how is this any different than watching any other real sport?”. The fact that it’s all presented with a straight face like a normal sporting event is part of the appeal.
Which brings me to the next point: the playing field is completely equal, anybody can win! It’s the human mind that creates narratives out of nothing that keeps the thing afloat. When a marble or a team that hasn’t won anything suddenly triumphs, it’s painted as an underdog story or a tale of perseverance. Maybe last year’s winning team is dead last, succumbing to the pressure. It’s stories like these that make the whole thing greater than it is.
The marbles are navigating the tricky sand section, going from side to side, trying to avoid not getting stuck in the embankments. Glimmer is handling it very well, gaining a slight lead going down the soggy terrain. And it’s dreadful news for Rojo Rollers, whose marble got jammed in the sand and will not be able to finish. However, the other two marbles have closed the gap considerably. As they drop into the finishing water portion, it’s anyone’s game…
Marble League is the creation of brothers Jelle and Dion Bakker, two Dutch Youtubers who love marbles a lot. It’s part of the channel Jelle’s Marble Runs, which, in addition to the Marble League, also hosts other marble-related sporting events, like the off-road competition of Marble Rally and the Formula 1 spoof Marbula 1. The latter was even recognized by FIA, the official Formula 1 association! The channel has over a million subscribers supporting this stuff, so it’s not like the madness is ending anytime soon.
Is it all fun and roses? Well, some of the events can get a tad boring. Also, if one can’t suspend their disbelief while watching the whole affair, they will probably just see marbles going round and round. A childlike look on things isn’t a requisite, but it helps. I’m not entirely sure who hasn’t got all their marbles in place: the creators, the backers, or the viewers, but I’m glad someone hasn’t!
The water is slowing the teams down considerably. Snowstorm however has left something in reserve and is now speeding up rapidly. They skid past Mimo and are very close to the leading marble. Can they squeeze past before the finish line? The marbles come into goal virtually at the same time! It’s up to the photo finish to determine the winner. The stadium is holding its breath while we wait for the results. And there it is! The crowd goes jubilant, we have a new winner! It’s your favourite team!!
Channel: Jelles Marble Runs
Authors: Jelle & Dion Bakker
Release date: October 17 – 9 December 2023
Pictures source: Screenshots from the Marble League 2023 Triathlon event, taken by the author.
Marathon runner & pop culture connoisseur, tries and sometimes succeeds in finding time for gaming. Plays anything but veers towards RPGs, adventures, and indies. If a game has jumping monkeys, he'll love it. Will also humiliate himself in any board game, including chess.
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