Dutch sport taking the world by storm (Or: Jelle’s Marble Runs)

Imagine my surprise when I read that a new Dutch sport was showcased on the American late-night television show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The Dutch sport? Marble racing! The creators are two brothers, Jelle and Dion Bakker (English Wikipedia | Dutch Wikipedia).

Jump to 17:47 if you want to see just the part about the marble racing. John Oliver first discusses the world’s need for sporting events to come back, but also the perils of trying to do so too quickly. For instance, Germany’s football (soccer) league Bundesliga has restarted even though some players and staff members are testing positive for the coronavirus. He then connects this topic with the topic of Dutch marble racing, highlighting this as a “safe option” sport to watch for now. ‘It’s just not possible right now’: John Oliver on bringing back sports safely (theguardian.com).

Amerikaanse tv-show plots sponsor van Nederlandse knikkeryoutubers (article in Dutch, nos.nl). The article talks about how John Oliver has decided to sponsor the 2020 Marble League. After the episode aired, the number of YouTube subscribers jumped from 830K to over a million in a few days and is still climbing. The channel itself has been in existence since November 2018 (subscriber stats).

The key to understanding why this is such a hit is knowing that the marbles are divided into teams with their own names and logos. Each marble has its own personality. Each team has their own merchandise ranging from t-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, die cut stickers, posters, and so forth. There are various competitions including the Marble League (formally MarbleLympics), the Marble Rally (a series of offroad races, either on sand or dirt) and even the Marbula One, which of course is inspired by Formula One auto racing.

Marble League 2019 – funnel race (the LAST marble wins)

So – will you be watching marble racing this summer?

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