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Marble Racing Takes the Checkered Flag 

Look out NASCAR, here comes... marble racing?

Hey, sports fans. Tired of watching reruns of the Miracle on Ice to see if the U.S. really does beat the Soviets in the 1980s Olympic semi-final?

How many times can you watch Ed-Gar’s double that saved baseball in Seattle? Flutie’s Hail Mary Pass? The Catch?  Thought so, me too.

Just when the days seems darkest, and when MLB pushes back Opening Day again, along comes a sport so pure and sweet and incredible, not to mention totally COVID-19 safe, that your life will once again be worth living. I’m talking Marble racing.

Laugh now, but let’s lay a little wager now that you’ll be watching Marbula One and Sand Marble Rally races on YouTube long after the kids go to bed. 

The brainchild of Jelle and Dion Bakker from The Netherlands, the Jelle’s Marble Runs channel views and subscriptions have blown up in recent weeks, thanks in part to the pandemic shutting down any organized sports. Though diehard fans will say they found this sport rolling back in 2016, it’s us coronavirus-deprived-sport junkies who feel like we’ve found the Holy Grail.

Though other marble racing sites exist, Jelle’s is the most creative one, with twists and turns and marbles—marbles, mind you! battling it out on the track. 

Having trouble with the concept? Think NASCAR meets the Kentucky Derby and their offspring is Marble Racing. It’s colorful, ingenious, exciting, and meets the current CDC rules for social distancing. Layer in the smooth broadcasting voice of American Greg Woods—part Vin Scully, part Joe Buck, and a splash of Jim Nantz.

Woods, who's from Iowa, isn’t a stranger to the careening sport of marble racing. He founded the Fruit Circuit, a marble racing site in 2004, that rolled until financial troubles shut it down in 2014. 

Woods, who dabbled with sports broadcasting but currently works in the medical sector, discovered Jelle’s channel on Reddit several years ago, when the Bakker brothers were running their Knikkegen Marble League. The races lacked commentary, so Woods made a demo tape giving life to the action, to the tune of a Formula One race. His shot for all the marbles served him well. Now, he even has his own broadcaster marble, a dark blue one with white swirls, that you can look for in the stadium’s broadcaster’s booth.

Like NASCAR, whose marble racing fans gather in sections supporting their favorite driver. Or racing fans who are marbles. The Lego® built stadiums come complete with banners, signage, sponsorships, and of course, fans, without moving mouthparts, cheering for their respective driver or team. You’ll lose your marbles over the attention to detail.

click image GUERRINO BOATTO, WIKIMEDIA
  • Guerrino Boatto, Wikimedia

It’s tough to say if Marbula One or the intense Marble League will continue to rumble once professional sports are up and running, but I’ll wager that MLB and the NHL have lost some followers during this pandemic. Marble racing offers everything its counterparts do: thrilling action, underdog heroics and subtle side stories. A March 15 tweet summed it up: Day 4 with no sports: Marble 1 racing is intense!

There is another upside to Jelle’s Marble Runs. Jelle, who has autism, channels his energies, sometimes eight hours a day, into creating courses, organizing stadiums, and producing captivating competitions. He’s found his outlet that others can learn from.

Since that mid-March tweet, marble racing has gone viral, off the tracks, and taken a victory lap even though the season is still on. Jelle’s Marble Runs YouTube channel hosts weekly competitions—currently featuring its Marbula One series. Later this summer, the Marble League, formerly known as the Marblelympics, will air around the time the Tokyo Olympics was set to begin. Teams will compete in a variety of Olympic-inspired events, and there will even be an Opening Ceremony, sans the fireworks. Team Galactica hosts this year’s competition, which may give them a slight home-field advantage. Tune in to see the competition.

The Bakker brothers' site currently has over 53 million YouTube views and 730K subscribers, and is growing daily. 

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised when a cure for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is found, that many marble racing fans won’t know for several days. They’ll be too engrossed in the tight turns and team standings and side stories swirling around these competitors. 

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