World without sports: Marble racing is the sport of the future

Yahoo Sports
(@davdchristmas)
(@davdchristmas)

Maybe it was the fact that almost every sporting event had just vanished, now and for the foreseeable future. Maybe it was the exhaustion of worrying about the fate of literally everything in my life. Whatever the reason, when I collapsed into bed Sunday night and scrolled through Twitter — yeah, bad habit, what are you gonna do — I got hooked into watching marbles racing.

Marbles. Racing.

I had a moment where I caught myself — really? This is what it’s come to? Already? — but then such smug conceits were gone. I was invested, man. Seriously, just watch and tell me you’re not totally on board here:

There was Comet, tearing it up through the first half of the race, Deep Ocean and Mocha Madness close behind. Out in clean air, Comet was putting the rest of the field to shame! Come on, Comet! Our hopes and dreams ride with you!

Then … disaster. Reflector and Tarantula, those cheating sumbitches, gave Comet a shot to the rear sphere and drove Comet into a center stanchion, ducking around him to take the lead. 

No! It couldn’t end like this for Comet, could it? Comet fell all the way to fourth place, trying the high line, diving deep into turns, anything to make up ground. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say this:

I’ve watched thousands of races in my day. I’ve stood trackside at the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby. And outside of Dale Earnhardt’s 2000 victory at Talladega, where he passed 17 cars on the final five laps, I’m hard pressed to remember a more thrilling race than this one. (OK, that’s probably the quarantine talking, but still: that was a hell of a race.) 

In the afterglow of victory, I had only two questions: where did this come from? And can we get more?

The answer to the first question: this race was the creation of a brilliant YouTuber in the Netherlands by the name of Jelle Bakker. The answer to the second: yep, absolutely.

“Jelle’s Marble Runs” is one of those YouTube channels that takes a simple premise — rolling marbles down an incline — to an absurd, brilliant degree. The channel features the “Marbula One,” a series of races around a speedway track; “Marble League,” where marbles “compete” across 16 events in various contraptions; and … look, I know this sounds ridiculous, but just go watch it, OK? 

“I was only four years old when starting constructing my first marble run,” Bakker told Yahoo Sports in an email. “I did the first ‘real race somewhere in 2013 as an experiment, and it was successful.” 

Tracks can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a full year to build. Bakker runs marbles through a full gauntlet of events, and adds commentary from Greg Woods, who spotted the races on Reddit. Check out these production values:

The behind-the-scenes preparation involved is incredible. Check out the detail on just one of the dozen-plus events in “Marble League”:

Bakker has seen huge traffic spikes since the sand race went — well, let’s not say “viral,” let’s say “caught Twitter’s attention.” He’ll follow that up with more videos this weekend.

So, yeah … scoff if you like. But right now, Marble Racing is the best sports entertainment we’ve got … and it’s pretty darn good. Oh, and Comet Forever.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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