Around the track, they go. Clementine from the O’rangers is leading the pack. Coming out of the tunnel is Snowy from team Snowballs in second. Mo is leading team Momo, fighting for third place with Green Ducks’ team captain, Mallard, close behind. Rumor has it the Oceanics will fire their coach, Tide, if the team is unable to finish this race in the top 10. Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to come down to a photo finish. Who is going to be standing proudly atop the gold medal platform?
Jelle’s Marble Runs is a YouTube channel based around the game of marbles, marble runs and marble races. During the pandemic, their subscriptions and views have skyrocketed.
As of the time that this article was written, Jelle’s Marble Runs has just under 61 million views with over 781,000 subscribers. The channel has been on YouTube since 2006. The people behind these great games are brothers Jelle and Dion Bakker, from Wervershoof, Netherlands. It all started when, as a young child, Jelle began to construct and dig out the dirt in his grandfather’s garden for his tracks. They were first originally for his amusement.
Then came the Internet, where you can upload such oddities for others to watch, and soon a rabid fan base was born. At first, the channel was filled with different runs, but as the fan base grew and time went by, they decided to add a competition element to it. They now focus their events based on spoofs like the Olympic Games (the Marble League) with its Opening and Closing Ceremony and the Formula One races (Marbella One). They also have other events like the Marble Rally, which is a sand racetrack and special events for holidays like Halloween, Christmas or Easter.
These spherical glass balls line up behind the starting block before being dropped down a twisty track, all run by gravity. There is a total of 48 teams in Jelle’s collection, and each team has four identical athletes. With each team, there is a team captain, a team coach and a home field.
With all this randomness, some may wonder, “Is there even an audience for these games?” The answer is yes. Each team has a “fan base.” The stands are filled with marbles that cheer for each team. They have team chants and little signs cheering for their team.
If you are lucky, you may experience some rambunctious fans that throw things on the track or turn violent when the security guards (bigger silver marbles) have to escort the fans out of the stadium and issue fines and ban fans from the stadium.
After watching a video one day, Greg Woods, an Iowa based auto racing enthusiast, sent a video to the Bakker brothers of him commentating on one of their races. In 2016, his life would change forever when he was asked to do the English commentary for all the marble events.
Nowadays, Jelle creates the new track, which can take him up to several days, depending on the complexity, and then the brothers film and edit the race. A composer drafts music, and an a cappella group records team chants that come from the crowd. Eventually, the whole thing is sent to Woods, who records the commentary in a single take “to preserve the realism.”
Though we do not have live sports to watch any more, we can put our sports enthusiasm into watching our favorite racers compete every Saturday and Sunday until they do come back. Go Green Ducks!