An Old Sport Renewed: Marble Racing Rushes into the Mainstream

Quarantine and Social Isolation would have been much easier to deal with if we had access to our favourite sports. It would’ve given us something to look forward to on the weekends and maintained some semblance of normality in a world which had suddenly changed. It would’ve also given respite to bookies, opportunities for advertisers and kept the economy trudging forward. But it was too dangerous to continue, with potential to become a hotbed for infections, and so, for the first time in decades, many of the biggest sporting leagues and events had to come to a stuttering halt. A wise decision, a short-term loss for a quicker long-term recovery. But sports fans aren’t the most logical of people, and a starved sports aficionado isn’t unlike a frazzled and hungry animal. In such a case, what is one to do? For all the traction they’ve received in recent years, E-Sports still lack a certain je na se quo when compared with on-field events where adrenaline and blood flow in equal measure. In that aspect, perhaps we humans aren’t as evolved as we‘d like to think we are. Even in the most civilized of hearts, there remains a yearning for the days of the gladiators, for vast arenas and bloodsport, with cheers and hurrahs ringing in those churning bowls of chaos and emotion. A part of humanity’s soul still resides in the Colloseum. Colloseum But how does one combat emotion? How does one sate their yearning for sport and action in the middle of a global pandemic? Well, the answer came from the unlikeliest of sources: One Mr John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. In the episode creatively titled ‘Sport’, he spoke of Jelle’s Marble Racing. A sport unlike any other, where marbles race each other across painstakingly crafted gauntlets. Created by Dutch siblings Jelle and Dion Bakker, the sport has everything – from intricate relays, water courses, a legion of loyal fans – both in the real-world as well as LEGO spectators around the tracks, and a commentary team which manages to put in a surprising amount of action and excitement in what you’d have thought would be a mundane event. To paraphrase John Oliver, the sport is absolutely fantastic, and people who have seen it can’t stop themselves from fully diving into it. Far from being just a YouTube distraction, it’s a genuine sporting event. Marble Racing Sadly, with the good, there is the bad. Jelle’s Marble Racing is about to fold unless it gets sponsors and funding. They’ve been looking at securing a Title Sponsor along with others, but it hasn’t been easy going, not when the world already has a number of sports vying for attention. Or at least – it was going to fold – until Last Week Tonight became the official sponsors of Jelle’s Marble Racing. You heard it right. Not only are they going to survive, with the attention they’ve received from John Oliver’s video – and investment – they’ve already hit the 1 million subscriber mark on their channel, with views going far beyond that. You heard it right, HBO’s stepped into the game, and Marble Racing is now a legitimate event. Could it get any better? Surprisingly, yes, yes it could. The Marble League 2020 sponsored by Last Week Tonight is set to start off next month with sixteen teams competing for gold in sixteen athletic events that will challenge their prowess in speed, endurance, accuracy and perseverance. The team with the most points at the end of the tournament will be the champions of the season. But that’s not all. The winner of each event will get 5000$ donated to a food bank in their name. Now this is the kind of content we’re here for. Watching a sport and supporting a social cause at the same time? Sign us up please! Last Week Tonight So, if you’re bored this Quarantine, if you’re restless and missing your dose of sports, head over to Jelle’s Marble Racing Channel over on YouTube and catch the Marble League in all its glory. It promises to be a sensational season – and it may just be the dose of dopamine the globe needs right now.

Pritesh Patil

Purveyor of stories, hope and rebellions. Often found exploring the nooks and crannies of the city searching for adventures and gaps between worlds. You can find him on Twitter as @TheQuillseeker.

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