Jelle’s Marble Runs: the newest virus-free sport
By Roberto Lachner
To read the full interview with Jelle’s Marble production members, click here
Over the past summer, the favored pass times of many people all over the globe temporarily faded away because of (like many other things) the Coronavirus. Athletes and team staff didn’t want to risk becoming infected, and there were no plans in place for how to play safely. But one sporting event carried on this summer like always, where the athletes could not become infected: the Marble League. The Marble League, hosted by the YouTube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs, is an Olympic style event where “athletes” compete in events such as the five-meter sprint, the funnel endurance, biathlon, and high jump, using only gravity and sheer “skill”. The twist is that the competitors are actually the marbles themselves, not any humans controlling them. This sport has blown up and received millions of views on YouTube, even being featured on ESPN, (trying to fill the void of endless talking) and with the creators having been interviewed by the New York Times, CNN, BBC, the AP, and many more. They even received a sponsorship worth tens of thousands of dollars from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
The main allure of the sport is just how pure it is. There’s no doping, no cheating, and no toxic fans. In an interview with the Tiburon, Callum Charman, a member of the Jelle’s Marble Runs Committee (or JMRC), backs this up by saying that “…of course there’s a factor of luck in every marble race- and that’s the beauty of it- there’s never one team that’s entirely expected to dominate.” When a new event airs and fans sit down in front of their TVs to watch, they know that no matter how small the odds may seem, their team will always have a fighting chance at claiming gold. The teams are all based off of the appearance of the marbles themselves, such as the solid orange ones being dubbed the O’rangers and light green ones with brown stripes holding the name of Minty Maniacs. The design team for JMR- Jelle’s Marble Runs- has done an excellent job designing smooth circular logos for each team, and even posters depicting the teams in their home environments. This tags along well with just how professional each and every event is built, produced, and edited. Another member of the JMRC, Trevor Sayre, opined on the subject, saying, “I think what we might all agree on is the production quality- there’s just a lot of detail that we put in- we care a lot about, be it backstory: if you’re gonna get into a marble, well, you might as well also have all this fantasy concept around it with names and teams and where they came from and sort of just keeping it separate from reality- making it its own reality…” There’s engaging commentary on all events, spectator stands are set around the arena with fans holding signs, and graphics and editing look even more professional than on sports viewed by millions on television.
But what really makes the Marble league so fun to watch is the sheer intensity that goes into every round. Each event is only around fifteen minutes long, meaning that all stakes are compressed into an extremely short time frame, causing the excitement to blast through the roof as you cross your fingers for your favorite team to win, whether that means crossing the finish line first or teetering at the top of the funnel without falling into the end. Even Charman, a member of production, still feels the thrill- “I’m still absolutely invested in how things turn out… often we know the results well in advance but that doesn’t change the magic of when the video comes out- and everyone reacting to it- the same way that you did…” That, along with the community of like-minded high intensity fans, makes for a viewing experience which some may consider even more enticing than that of traditional sports. Matt Hurford, a Junior at Ponte Vedra High School and a fan of the Midnight Wisps, says that in marble racing, “You and your fellow fans will laugh together, cry together, win or lose together.” And although some may see it as just a whole bunch of marbles going down a ramp, others chose to see it as a bright spot that came of the pandemic, a rare event that brings people together all around the globe.
If you want to read the full interview with JMRC members Trevor Sayre, Callum Charman, and also Matthew Spadaccini, click here.