RetRollSpective – Minty Maniacs

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to focus on the Minty Maniacs, a team that debuted in the 2018 Winter Marble League.

The logo for the Minty Maniacs, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Minty Maniacs, as their logo suggests, are candy fanatics—with an emphasis on mint, of course. The team met from across the lands of Herbotamia, a region in southwest Asia known for growing herbs and spices. Herbotamia itself has gained the reputation of being the “freshest” place in the world, according to one of the world’s most acclaimed travel guides, Atlas Marbura.

Minty Flav, Minty Drizzel, Minty Fresh, Minty Swirl, and Minty Mint competed together in local “turf tournaments”, which featured a variety of events utilizing the surrounding locale: for example, doing a Catwalk event along a wooden beam, or doing a Quartet Jump from a downhill slope into a lake. It wasn’t long before these tournaments started becoming popular throughout Western Asia as a fun outdoors activity and a potential professional sports league.

These tournaments reverberated through the region as friendly rounds conducted without an audience, due to the hot, dry climate of summertime, when the lands weren’t being planted or harvested. The Minty Maniacs spearheaded the first tournament, which was a trio between the Black Jacks and Golden Wisps. The next season, more teams from around the region competed in what became known as the Herbotamia Tournament.

The Herbotamia Tournament was in its second year when professional marble sports became popular worldwide, punctuated by sand racing, hurdle jumping, and contact sports like lucha marbre. The athletes of the tournament had been contacted to be in the sports featurette that would go viral, but they turned down the request.

            “We always envisioned this as something casual: as something we enjoyed to do for ourselves,” the team’s captain, Minty Flav, reflected. “I personally never anticipated this would get as popular as it has.”

            “We were a little afraid of it at first,” Minty Swirl admitted. “We hesitated, and we shouldn’t have, because this is something we love to do. We were just shy.”

As tournaments like the Knikkegen Marble League ballooned in popularity, tournaments like the Fruit Circuit and Herbotamia Tournament stagnated. The cost of maintaining a tournament without sponsorship began to loom over the Herbotamia athletes like a shadow, even for something so casual—and the announcement of the 2016 Marble League did not help.

The Minty Maniacs were preparing to retire from marble sports and go into the food industry, making homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream, when they were approached by Jelle Bakker. Although Jelle was focused on running the 2016 Marble League, they missed running a regional tournament, and offered the Maniacs a sponsorship for their tournament to continue in 2016. After contacting the other teams, the Maniacs accepted, and the tournament—now rebranded as the Hubelino Tournament—was slated to begin in Herbotamia shortly after the 2016 Marble League.

The first season of the Hubelino Tournament was an experiment for regional tournaments that complemented the Marble League, which was an experiment for international tournaments.

The 2016 Hubelino Tournament differed from the original tournament in that it was recorded for the Internet (a first for a regional tournament) in the hope that it would be appreciated by a wider audience, and that it featured artificial courses using Hubelino tracks, bricks, and other special parts. The tournament was conducted without a live audience to preserve the original “friendly round” atmosphere of the competition, and featured eight teams competing for eternal glory.

The Minty Maniacs may be the first example of the “host’s curse” in Jelle’s Marble Runs history, although they did not seem to be so in the first four events. The Minty Maniacs immediately made a strong impression, podiuming three times with two silvers and one bronze to their name. Minty Fresh’s bronze in the Elimination Maze, pictured below, helped their team rise to second in the overall standings, behind only the Black Jacks.

Minty Fresh's bronze in the Elimination Race kept their team in the top half of the standings throughout the first eight events.

That said, the Minty Maniacs peaked early in the season, and they did not podium in the remaining four events. Still, by the end of the year they placed in a respectable fourth place overall, squarely in the middle of all the Hubelino Tournament teams.

            “We were pretty satisfied, considering how much changed from previous years. It was a challenge and we took it on in mint condition!” remarked Minty Fresh.

The eight teams got close during the tournament and made plans to attend the 2017 Marble League together. They sat to the right of the torch alongside the four unqualified teams, and they were astounded.

            “We’d never seen a sports tournament like that before,” said Minty Drizzel, “and we were inspired. It was a reminder for us to keep doing what we love, and it pushed us to work harder.”

The Hubelino Tournament reconvened for an additional four events after the 2017 Marble League, and it was clear that the Minty Maniacs were focusing their energy elsewhere. They finished seventh overall after placing in the bottom four all four times, but they were not discouraged. They were laser-focused on training for the 2018 Winter Marble League, and they were not alone.

A disappointing conclusion to the team's first season, marred by low-tier finishes in the bottom half of events.

Jelle offered all eight Hubelino teams the chance to compete in the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers. The Minty Maniacs, along with the Black Jacks, Golden Orbs, and Raspberry Racers (formed of members from the Bluefastics and Valiant Violets) accepted their offer, and entered the Draw in December 2017. The Minty Maniacs were placed in Group A with the Chocolatiers—a funny coincidence, considering that the Chocolatiers sourced mint from Herbotamia in creating some of their chocolate delicacies. During Qualifiers, the Maniacs earned a silver and a bronze in the Snow Race and Halfpipe, respectively, and did well enough in the other two events to qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League. They and the Raspberry Racers were the only Hubelino-based teams to qualify.

The Minty Maniacs debuted with high hopes and a crushingly low beginning, placing last in the 5 Meter Ice Dash. While they were able to recover in the next few events and place in the middle of the pack, the Maniacs were not in mint condition, even with the addition of their reserve, Minty Mint.

            “The competition is so much more intense than anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s a true challenge,” Minty Drizzel realized. “It’s not that we didn’t want to do well, but we certainly questioned ourselves.”

The Maniacs seemed to be on the rise after two consecutive fifth-place finishes in Speed Skating and Team Pursuit, but they stumbled with two consecutive twelfth-place finishes in the next two events, falling to fifteenth overall. The Minty Maniacs, with no medals, were the most underwhelming rookie team in the tournament, and after placing last in the Biathlon, they were tied with Mellow Yellow in fifteenth overall. There were two events to go, and the next event, Ice Hockey, was similar to Ball Battle, an event that the team did not do well in during the Hubelino Tournament.

The 2018 Winter Marble League included several unexpected podiums. This was one of them.

The Minty Maniacs shocked everyone, then, when they made it to the finals of Ice Hockey and fell to the Midnight Wisps, earning their first Marble League medal despite falling out of contention for the championship. With this, the team rose to thirteenth place overall and remained there to finish out the 2018 Winter Marble League.

            “I remember Jelle glancing behind themselves as they rolled up to the podium, and Jelle warmly smiled at us,” Minty Mint told, with a similar smile on their face. “That made the whole season worth it.”

Nevertheless, the Minty Maniacs were well aware that the Hubelino Tournament had not set them up to do well in the Marble League. The two tournaments required different skills, and after the 100 Meter Water Race, where Minty Drizzel did not finish, the team collectively decided to return to the Hubelino Tournament for its second season. They were joined by the Black Jacks and the Golden Orbs.

The second season of the Hubelino Tournament offered sports fans a classic friendly, but it was not hotly anticipated.

Although experience in the 2016 Hubelino Tournament did not help teams in the Marble League, experience in the Marble League helped teams do well in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament. The Minty Maniacs only placed off of the podium three times, demonstrating consistency that they had never shown in their career before. If they were in mint condition during the beginning of the 2016 season, they were on fire in 2018.

The Minty Maniacs were challenged by the Bumblebees, a rookie team from the Bug Circuit that did not have the Marble League experience, but the energy and the drive to excel. The Minty Maniacs earned two golds, one silver, and one bronze prior to the final event, the Big Tower, and had the lead in the standings—but did not advance to the final. The Bumblebees did, and they won their fourth gold medal and the 2018 Hubelino Tournament in an underdog upset.

The Minty Maniacs just missed out on what would have been redemption for their 2018 Marble League season.

Regardless, the Minty Maniacs had so much to celebrate even without winning the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, with medals from the Catwalk, Funnel Spin, Block Bumping, Relay Race, and Maze as physical embodiments of their achievements. While fans were calling for the Minty Maniacs to return to the Marble League for 2019, the team was looking forward to the third season of the Hubelino Tournament. Unfortunately, that opportunity would not come.

            “It was a combination of teams retiring, such as The Green Gang and Valiant Violets, and a lack of performance. Jelle did everything they could,” assured Minty Swirl, “but it was a lost cause. The lack of ticket revenue and interest from the fans made a third season infeasible.”

            “Everyone just wanted to see the Marble League,” added Minty Flav. “And honestly, we get it.”

The team disbanded shortly after the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, returning to Herbotamia. During this time, they got in contact with the Chocolatiers, who had qualified for the 2019 Marble League, and they collaborated on a special Marble League-branded mint chocolate ice cream flavor named “Mint Chocolate Condition”. The proceeds went to support regional marble sports tournament around the world.

The relegation system used from the 2019 season to the impending 2020 season.

Upon the announcement of the 2019 Marble League Showdown, the Minty Maniacs reunited to decide whether or not to come out of retirement to accept their spot, which was granted to them due to their second place finish in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament. The team, with the encouragement of the Black Jacks and Golden Orbs, decided to reform and compete to either advance to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers or remain in the Showdown league.

The Minty Maniacs were the only team that competed in the Showdown that had competed in the Marble League before and had never failed to qualify, and the only team to come out of retirement. Regardless, the team faced intense competition from Marble League veterans such as the Snowballs and Team Momo, as well as from rookies like the Hornets, known for their rivalry with the Bumblebees. The Minty Maniacs were in eleventh midway through the four event tournament after Minty Drizzel finished the Sand Rally in eighth and the Maniacs placed last in Collision. They desperately needed a good finish to be able to advance.

A hint of a comeback for the Minty Maniacs...

Minty Swirl was tapped to compete in the Funnel Spin, and true to their name, they swirled around the funnels, advancing from their heat in third to earn a silver medal in the final. The team rose to sixth in the standings, above the Bumblebees, and became the first team to earn a medal in the Marble League, the Marble League Showdown, and the Hubelino Tournament. With their ninth place finish in Balancing, the Minty Maniacs advanced to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers just above the Shining Swarm: two centimeters ahead of them in Balancing and a silver medal tiebreak in the overall standings. They will compete to qualify for the 2020 Marble League on 18 June.

            Minty Hint, the team’s coach as of 2019, is optimistic for their future. “The Maniacs are competing for the right reasons. They would rather be honored by their laurels than contested by their rivals, and that positivity will get them far.”

In RetRollSpective, the Minty Maniacs have one of the most interesting histories competing in tournaments, from friendlies to the Marble League, with varying degrees of success. Although they were once worried about the future of marble sports, their embrace has made the sports better, just by their presence and determination to keep on. With hope, the Minty Maniacs will truly realize their potential and do well in future tournaments. Best of luck to them in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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