RetRollSpective – Rojo Rollers

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where I reflect on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to “roll out” to the Rojo Rollers, a team that was featured in the original Marble League.

The logo for the Rojo Rollers, designed by Tim Ritz.

Located exactly in the middle of Central America, Numerun is known as the “newest old” city in the world. Its territory has been settled for over a millennium, but the city itself was rediscovered by explorers from across the ocean nearly five hundred years ago. The explorers shared goods from their side of the world with Numerun, attracting a competitive economy, the likes of which Numerun had never seen before. As a result, the city grew immensely in the next few hundred years, becoming one of the most diverse, economical, and intellectual cities in the world.

Through all of this, the ancient city center of Numerun has been preserved from modern urban development, making the city one of the most interesting tourist attractions in the world. One of the most notable landmarks is Colina Umerun, an artificially created hill designed specifically for marble racing. The hill was designed centuries ago for recreation, and, through frequent renovation, is still in use today. In fact, going down Colina Umerun is what inspired each of the Rojo Rollers—and Red Number 3—to enter the realm of marble sports.

The Rojo Rollers hail from the outskirts of Numerun and previously worked in the modern city center, which encircles Numerun Antigua. The five team members were all familiar with each other from the workplace, where they were mathematicians at competing universities. They formally met each other during the city’s Milenaria, which was celebrated in Numerun Antigua. The universities decided to go together in a historic academic event, grouping together departments of various schools on the trip. After getting to know each other throughout the day and making several bad math puns, the five marbles went down the Colina, one after the other, and regrouped at the bottom.

            “I’ve always been a big fan of racing,” said Rojo Uno. “It may not look like it considering how academic I am, but it has always inspired me. But I never actually wanted to be a part of it until that day.”

Colina Numerun depicted on the Rojo Rollers' Marbula One poster, illustrated by Jack Ironhide.

Rojo Uno expected the other four marbles to show the same amazement, but they simply shook it off and moved on with the day. It was not until a few months later, when they met for dinner, that they all began to realize that they felt the same way.

            “It was a lot. An eye-opening, and I wasn’t ready to accept it then,” admitted Rojo Dos. “But I could tell that day had changed my life forever.”

Rojo Uno, Rojo Dos, Rojo Tres, and Rojo Cuatro stepped away from their jobs the following semester, and began to seek training. Luckily for them, Numerun was the host city for the Surculo, the most popular marble sports tournament south of Marblopolis. They quickly found a trainer, and in 2012, entered the Surculo.

Rojo Cinco remained at their job to complete a second doctorate degree in sports medicine. During their time at university, they came across Red Number 3, who was completing their master’s degree in sports medicine. The two became friendly in class upon finding out that they were both interested in the Surculo.

The Rojo Rollers, named for the red adobe homes of Numerun Antigua, started off poorly in the Surculo, placing in the bottom half of their first tournament. The Rollers were not deterred, however, and in 2013, they improved, finishing exactly in the middle of the competition. In 2014, their margin of improvement was significant, and they earned a wild card spot in the elite league. Even though the stakes rose in 2015, the Rojo Rollers, steadfast to their passion and skill, improved still, and finished as runners-up to the Jawbreakers at the conclusion of the tournament.

With the announcement of the 2016 Marble League, Greg Woods extended an invite to the leading teams of many regional marble sports tournaments. This included the top three teams of the 2015 Surculo, which were the Jawbreakers, the Rojo Rollers, and the Quicksilvers. The Jawbreakers and Rojo Rollers accepted, while the Quicksilvers declined in favor of one more shot at the Surculo Championship. The Jungle Jumpers, who placed fourth, also declined the invite, so the Chocolatiers, who placed fifth, were the third team accepted.

The first podium in Marble League history.

The Rojo Rollers entered the 2016 Marble League as strong as they possibly could have, earning the first gold medal in the tournament’s history in the Balancing event. Their points record, at 347 centimeters, lasted for three years until the Crazy Cat’s Eyes broke it in the 2019 Marble League. Although 2019 was the first year that the event returned to competition, it still stands as an impressive feat that few teams have managed to score above 347 cm in Balancing.

            “We needed that validation, right out of the gate. We got it, and I couldn’t have been more grateful,” Rojo Tres remarked. “It stuck with us for the rest of the season, and proved to us that we always have the opportunity to be the best—but only if we work for it.”

The team earned one point during the Relay Race due to the malfunction on the top track. The team placed dead last during Collision, but made up for it in the Sand Rally when Rojo Uno earned a silver medal. The team was at the top of the standings for the second time. Rojo Dos placed fourth in the next event, the Long Jump, to earn four points. However, the next event, the Water Race, proved problematic for the team, and their performance was disqualified due to Rojo Cuatro allegedly blocking another team. The Rojo Rollers lost three points as a result of this.

A misstep on the road to success?

“That was a false accusation, plain and simple,” Rojo Cuatro claimed. “I was already stuck, off the flow of water, and Snowy from the Snowballs hit me. I couldn’t get rolling again, but I didn’t want to block anyone else from rolling again. Being disqualified was not fair to me and to my team.”

The team appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied. This only made the team work harder, though, and their effort immediately paid off in the next event, High Jump, where Rojo Dos earned a gold medal. For the third time in seven events, the Rojo Rollers were at the top of the standings.

Unfortunately, the Rojo Rollers only earned one point during the last five events of the season, that point being from placing eighth in Quartet Diving. They finished the 2016 Marble League in sixth place with 30 points. Had the team not been disqualified, the Rojo Rollers would have finished in fifth place, two points above the O’rangers.

The Rojo Rollers’ return in the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers proved to be a continuation of the downturn they experienced in the latter half of the previous season. Although the Rojo Rollers placed ninth in the Relay Race, they went scoreless during the rest of Qualifiers and finished in dead last with only four points. Out of the four original teams who failed to appear in a second consecutive season, the Rojo Rollers were arguably the most surprising on the list. The team had been in the top four of the standings at the end of every 2016 event except for the last two. In the 2017 Qualifiers, their performance was almost the exact opposite.

While the Rojo Rollers experienced their first extended offseason, they entered into an official partnership with rising Sand Marble Rally star Red Number 3, who hailed from Bifornya, a village outside of Numerun. As a part of the partnership, Rojo Cinco finally joined the Rojo Rollers as their “rojo-serve” and the team traveled to Doornse Gat to support Red in the 2017 Sand Marble Rally. The team became very close with them, even including Red’s likeness in their logo, and began training together.

The athlete that would become the pinnacle of the Marble Rally in years to come.

“I always wanted to secure my second degree, and I’m happy that I got it, but joining the Rojo Rollers is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I feel at home,” remarked Rojo Cinco.

All five members of the team competed in the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers, and won the first event, Curling, in Group A. They also earned a silver medal in the final event, Halfpipe, but unfortunately, the Rojo Rollers failed to qualify for the second year in a row, with just 19 points to their name in fifth place. The Balls of Chaos, who had missed the 2017 Marble League along with the Rollers, qualified at the top of their group. The Snowballs were already hosting the 2017 Marble League, making the Rojo Rollers and the Kobalts the two teams to miss two Marble Leagues in a row.

Suffice it to say that the team was disappointed, but they decided to remain together, as did the Kobalts. The team initially planned to return to their universities for a semester to teach, but realized that the paparazzi would be hounding them. A few months in, they hosted a joint conference about their experience in the Marble League, and broke records for the largest attendance in academic conference history. It was clear that, despite not being in the Marble League for so long, the Rojo Rollers still had a dedicated fanbase, especially in their home city. Additionally, with the help of Red Number 3, the team began construction of a training facility and marble sports stadium, located in the city of Numerun. This stadium was submitted as a host for the 2019 Marble League, but was not picked.

The Rollers’ performance in the two offseason events were moderate at best. Rojo Tres placed sixteenth in the 100 Meter Water Race, just behind Yellup from Mellow Yellow. In the Amazing Maze Marble Race, the team placed first in their heat, but last in their semifinal. The team showed promise, but doubt was cast on their ability to follow through in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers. This doubt became their reality on 26 January 2019, when the Rojo Rollers failed to qualify for the Marble League for the third season in a row. The team did not place above tenth for any of the events, and was never in the top twelve.

As described by the article “The Teams You’ll Miss in the 2019 Marble League”, it was revealed that the Rojo Rollers had a difficult offseason. As the 2018 Sand Marble Rally approached, the new logo for the Rollers was released to the public, displaying a roller skate instead of the traditional red number 3 ball. This disturbed Red Number 3, who thought that the Marble League team was ending its long-standing relationship with them. Rojo Rollers privately met with Red Number 3, assuring them otherwise, and preventing the dissent from reaching the public. 

The athlete that would become the pinnacle of controversy, as well.

Needless to say, the confirmation in December that Red Number 3 had a hole on their bottom ballooned the scale of the controversy and created chaos. In the midst of training for 2019 Marble League Qualifiers, the Rojo Rollers had to act quickly and cut their partnership before the team’s reputation was tarnished in relation to Red Number 3. According to Rojo Tres: 

“We had no idea they weren’t a marble. The drama over this has been astounding, and while we tried to ignore it, we didn’t want to disappoint our fans if they got the impression that we supported fraud. We roll fair and square, except not square, because then we’d be cubes, and cubes aren’t marbles.” 

This decision deeply hurt the team, particularly after the Qualifiers. Although the article stated that the Rojo Rollers were willing to move away from the controversy, Jelle’s confirmation that Red Number 3 would be returning to the 2019 Marble Rally eased the tension surrounding the situation.

            “I understand why [the Rojo Rollers] did what they did. I understand why my fans were so upset,” Red Number 3 sighed. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and I feel the most disappointed in myself. I’m happy that I’m still being allowed to compete in this next season. I only hope the Rollers will forgive me for the way I acted.”

Since then, no official statement has been released regarding any future collaborations between the Marble Rally athlete and the team, but we hope that relations between the two parties have improved.

At this point, the Rojo Rollers were prepared to experience a third extended offseason, and maybe longer. As their new coach, Rojo Cero, put it:

            “I got onto the management, took one look at the team, and knew that their morale was gone. The Rojo Rollers have always been strong in team events, but it’s their individual events where—save for Uno and Dos—the athletes can’t follow through. It really takes a toll on them, especially when you don’t get into the main tournament for three seasons in a row. The Showdown saved them. They counted on that tournament to give them the exposure and experience they needed to redefine themselves and return to Qualifiers, ready to make it.”

The Rojo Rollers rejoiced at the announcement of the Showdown, and immediately got to training. As the Showdown approached, the team was a favorite to not only advance to 2020 Qualifiers, but to win the Showdown overall.

The Rojo Rollers reclaiming the top of the podium for the first time in three years.

Rojo Cuatro represented the team in the first event, Sand Rally, and placed seventh. The next event, Collision, saw the team dominate over its group and pull tight leads over its competitors in quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the finals. All five of the Rojo Rollers were on the podium for their first gold medal since the 2018 Qualifiers.

The team rose to second place in the standings, further proving their place in the top twelve. In the third event, Funnel Spinning, the Rollers put in Rojo Dos. Although Cuatro had more experience in funnel spinning, they had already participated in the Sand Rally. The team’s gamble with Dos paid off immensely, with their performance earning a bronze medal, a second overall spot, just one point behind the Snowballs, and, most importantly, a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers.

Rojo Dos' time to shine on the Marble League Showdown podium!

The final event, Balancing, was the event that the Rojo Rollers had the best experience in—but they did not show it. The team, perhaps in an effort to conserve its energy, placed dead last. The three teams who got on the podium were Team Primary, the Snowballs, and the Hornets. The Hornets moved ahead of the Rollers, taking second place at the conclusion of the Showdown. The Rojo Rollers remained on the podium by two points, with Team Primary a point and a medal below them in fourth. The Kobalts finished the Showdown in tenth place and remained in the Showdown in 2020, guaranteeing that at least one of the two teams would not get a second season of the Marble League—just yet.

While training for the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, Rojo Cero received an official letter from the JMRC, inviting the Rojo Rollers to compete in the first season of Marbula One. The Rojo Rollers accepted the invitation and will be represented by Rojo Uno and Rojo Dos during the tournament.

In RetRollSpective, the Rojo Rollers are not the paradigm of consistency. They are a team that has demonstrated a lot of promise, but has been unable to follow through, even in its first season of the Marble League. If the team can take the scale of improvement that they made in the Surculo four years ago and apply it to their performance in the 2020 Qualifiers, then the odds of the Rojo Rollers returning to the Championship League will be strong.

While working on this RetRollSpective, we got to visit Numerun to interview the athletes and tour the city. It could be considered both an old and modern wonder of the world—that’s how impressive Numerun is. In touring the Rollers’ new stadium, we discovered a beautiful tribute: a gap in the grandstands of the Rollers’ stadium that allows fans to get a direct view of Colina Umerun. The gap pays a breathtaking homage to the origins of not only the Rojo Rollers, but also the origins of marble racing.

We hope that, sooner rather than later, fans around the world will be able to experience this treasure for themselves. Best of luck to the Rojo Rollers in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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