The 2020 Royals baseball season has come to a merciful end. This is, as it always is, a bit of a melancholy period for Royals fans. We can’t watch our favorite team take the field again for months but we also don’t have to watch them continue to suffer. Regardless, we do need to find a way to pass the time. I like to do some reading or play video games. But while those things are fun, they don’t fill a sports-shaped hole in one’s heart.
Some of you will watch football - I hear the Kansas City Chiefs are pretty good, this year! Others will watch basketball, soccer, or hockey even though the Royals don’t have a team in those leagues. However, if none of those appeal to you, and you’re willing to root for a team not tied to any geographic location whatsoever, I have a sport you should really consider.
Jelle’s Marble Runs: The Marblelympics
The 2020 Marble League or Marblelympics, as it’s known colloquially, has sadly already finished but unlike the big sports you’re used to dealing with, all of their events are free to view on YouTube at any time and as long as you stay out of the comments you should have absolutely no problem avoiding the dreaded spoilers which might ruin a given event for you.
The Marblelympics are the perfect sporting event as the world continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since marbles can’t get the disease, the stands can be completely sold out and filled with a manic marble mob. Also, the team at Jelle’s has been doing artificial crowd noise for a lot longer than the major sports leagues so they’re much better at making it feel organic. My favorite part is the little touch of each team having a cheering slogan that you can hear being performed by a choir at various intervals when teams compete or perform particularly well.
The announcer for the event is just absolutely terrific. He has a great blend of complete nonsense that you can believe someone who doesn’t believe in advanced statistics probably told him once mixed in with his knowledgeable and fun commentary. He also has a great sense of drama and knows when to lay it on and when to take a more sedate tone.
The Marblelympics also have plenty of stats for the math-heads who might want to participate. Every event that has been done before has an established record that can be broken - and, small spoiler alert, several records do fall during this year’s festivities - they also show all the scores and measurements at every appropriate opportunity allowing viewers at home to make their own judgments about how likely a comeback is.
For those who are just in it for the drama of competition, these are surprisingly interesting events. You’d assume that marbles, having no will of their own, would finish a race exactly how they start it, but that’s rarely how it goes. Dramatic lead changes and photo finishes are a regular occurrence throughout the games. The events are also incredibly varied and visually interesting. Events replicating those you might see at the actual olympics such as relay racing, triathlons, and vaulting are accompanied by events only marbles could perform such as one called Collision where the marble teams compete in a round-robin style tournament to see who can stay on a platform after they hurtle at each other at top speed. Every event is explained and most are demonstrated before the actual competition just to make sure everyone at home understands what’s going to be happening. There are also plenty of slo-mo replays so you can see just how the rival team created the circumstances that gave them the match.
My favorite team is the O’Rangers because orange has long been my favorite color but there are plenty of other interesting teams, as well. There are the Crazy Cat’s Eyes, Raspberry Racers, Team Galactic, The Oceanics, and many more. Also, somehow, despite humanity’s seeming difficulty with the issue, every single team in the Marblelympics manages to avoid using an insensitive name or mascot.
Maybe you’re not into the Olympics thing, and that’s OK. Because the channel has, as its name implies, lots and lots of racing content, as well. The courses are innovative and interesting and the competition is always fierce. My favorite of these is Marbula One, where the same competitors from the Marblelympics compete on courses themed after their teams, but you might prefer Marble Rally events which take place in courses carved out of sand or even the Marbula E series which is a team-up with Virgin Racing and Formula E and features marbles representing the real Formula E racers on recreations of actual race tracks from around the world and even employs Jack Nicholls, the commentator for actual Formula E races.
If you’re anything like me the real world is still presenting way too much stress to handle on a day-to-day basis. Maybe you feel like things would be better if you could enjoy some sports but you don’t have time for a three-hour-plus match. Events in the Marblelympics have varied run times but are usually between six and twelve minutes. The longest events still only clock in at a little over twenty. It’s a bite-sized, guilt-free way to enjoy some sports action while you wait for Royals baseball to return in 2021.