Offseason Moments – ML2020 Showdown

As we in the JMRC were enjoying the 2020 Marble League, we contributed in our own ways to make this year’s edition the best one yet! From building a strong community on The Marblebase to bringing back The Rollout, designing graphics, analyzing events, and coordinating with the staff, we’ve been hard at work, but it has all been more than worth it! We are so excited to see how this year’s season rolls to the end, and we hope that you are looking forward to this week as much as we are!

In addition to all of our activities listed above, we sent Stynth on a world tour during the first few weeks of the season to interview the twelve Showdown teams that will compete next week, 15 August. The top eight teams at the end of the four events will advance to the 2021 Marble League Qualifiers. Which teams are competing, and what have they been up to this offseason? Check em out below!

This graphic depicting the JMRC watching the 2020 Marble League was created by Betawolfs!

Week 1: 22-28 June 2020

Van Gotterdam

“Mary resigned as captain as we were leaving the arena after Qualifiers,” stated Prim.

The trip from Polaria to Van Gotterdam, though long, was a pleasant train ride from the bitter cold to the warm summer sun. I was fortunate enough to travel to each of the Showdown teams’ hometowns on the days in between the main tournament’s events, which, though an arduous task, was quite rewarding—better than reviewing spreadsheets with the rest of the JMRC, anyway.

I sat in The Palette, a garden where the members of Team Primary relax in between training sessions and paint the surrounding flora. The garden was empty, save for Prim and Imar, as Rima, Mary, and Aryp were training with their coach, Secondary, and manager, Prima.

            “I didn’t stop them,” Prim continued. “I have never doubted my sibling. Still, I think we both knew things weren’t going to work out with them as captain…especially after Marbula One.”

            “We’re grateful that Mary’s stayed with the team,” Imar, the team’s new captain, stated. “They belong with us, both their name and their talent. Mary may be going through a rough patch right now, but they will come back from this. We believe in them.”

I thanked the two for their interview. As Prim showed me to the exit, I caught a glimpse of a painting of a cube with a red X painted over it. I thought it best not to ask them why.

Cassata

After visiting Team Primary in Van Gotterdam, I was scheduled to take a train ride down to Cassata, a city in Southern Europe west of the Gulf of Tartufo. My train was delayed after a transfer in Lemono went sour, so I spent the night in a train station, struggling to access Wi-Fi so I could communicate with the JMRC. The next morning, I was able to catch a high-speed train down to Cassata, and the team’s manager, Blimey, welcomed me upon my arrival.

            “The team hired me just after the Marbula One season, so I’m new here,” Blimey said. “And hoo, do we have a lot to work on.”

Blimey and I drove into Cassata, where the team was training with Superball, the Marble Rally athlete, for the Mogul Race event. Coach Keylime spoke to me as I watched the team train with the legendary athlete.

            “Blimey has been such a big help. We were really running out of funding after appearing in Marbula One, but they’ve helped us get back on our feet. I just don’t know if we’re too late.”

I did not get an opportunity to speak to any of the athletes and ask them about a rumor that claimed they competed in a milk tournament, as they were focusing on training—but I highly doubt that rumor is accurate. Before my flight departed, I made sure to get a slice of cassata garnished with raspberry syrup—just as the Limers would like it.

Galeem

The Shining Swarm, in complete contrast to the Limers’ melancholy welcome, serenaded me at the arrival gate with some of their greatest hits from the MarBeats, attracting a full crowd. Needless to say, I was completely and pleasantly surprised.

            “It’s the best way we could think of welcoming a JMRC member to our home,” Sterling said. The crowd cheered in approval.

After singing “Roll Over and Roll Out” onstage with the team, we traveled just outside of the city center to visit the Shining Coast, which sparkled at the mouth of the Silver River, and watched the sunset. That night, we toured the team’s newly constructed training facilities.

            “We had to get back into the music industry during the offseason to make money,” Sparkle admitted. “It was something that we weren’t sure of at first, but it totally paid off. From there, we hired Sheen as our manager and felt confident returning to training.”

            “This team has so much potential,” insisted Sheen. “On top of that, they have a lot of heart. They were so close to advancing last year that I know they will work even harder this year. Mark my words, it’s time for the Swarmy to rise.”

Zuro

I bid farewell to the Swarm the next morning to visit my final destination of the week: Zuro. Although I had written about Zuro in my RetRollSpective on the Kobalts, I had never had the opportunity to visit the city and was not sure what to expect. I emerged from the train station and my jaw dropped in awe, with glass towers reaching toward the sky decorated with greenery as monorails emerged from the train station, spoking outwards to different neighborhoods. It was a sight I would absolutely dub one of the “wonders of the modern world”.

I was surprised to be greeted by Dodger, who I knew had left the team after the 2016 Marble League. Dodger introduced themselves as the team’s new manager and stated that they had earned enough money to purchase the Kobalts just before the team filed for bankruptcy.

            “It was just after the Showdown. I had always remained in our Marbles & Monoliths server, and I got a message from Royal that the team needed help. I knew I had made the right choice leaving before 2017, but now I didn’t have to feel bad about it anymore. My career had taken off to the point where I could finally give back to my friends and contribute to something new.”

            During a tour of the Cobalt Circuit, which was in the process of being renovated, Azure graciously expressed their observations over the past year. “So much has changed for the better, and so much has gone right, that I am almost anxious about returning to compete. For all we know, we could be in over our heads.”

Week 2: 29 June-03 July 2020

Winterpeg

I was surprised at first to receive directions from the Snowballs for Winterpeg, since they hosted the 2018 Winter Marble League in Hailfern and hailed from other northern-north cities. When my flight arrived at the airport, Snowblast picked me up and we drove to a nearby creamery, picking up milkshakes. From there, we drove for about an hour until we reached a gravel driveway, which led to a getaway lodge where the rest of the team was waiting outside with their own milkshakes, holding “welcome home” banners.

            “We needed a vacation,” mentioned Snowflake, rolling my luggage inside, “and we don’t like sand. Winterpeg is often referred to as the ‘city of eternal winter’, so we thought it would be the perfect chance for us to have a change of scenery and still be able to ski.”

That night, after eating some delicious poutine, I interviewed the rest of the team.

            “It was amazing to do so well in Marbula One, but we felt all of this pressure after the tournament to qualify,” confessed Snowy. “As a team, we don’t do well under that kind of pressure, and we have accepted that.”

“The team made me realize that I was too hard on myself during this year’s Qualifiers,” Snowflake added. “I didn’t feel like I could lead the team when I was competing at my worst. But knowing failure is the best motivator to work towards success, and that has been the main goal of my leadership this offseason.”

            “We’re not giving up,” Snowstorm promised. “We did really well in last year’s Showdown, and we’re aiming high this year as well. We’ve been making great progress on the Relay Run, which we didn’t do well in during 2019 Qualifiers.”

The Snowballs, on top of being wonderful hosts, gave me an incredible interview. The next morning, we all stopped at the creamery to get milkshakes again before my flight. It was an experience I will never forget.

Numerun

My flight into Numerun brought me from the “eternal winter” of Winterpeg to one of the hottest cities in the world, but one of the most fascinating. Although I visited Numerun back in January, I pleaded to the rest of the JMRC to let me stay there an extra day. They approved, and prior to visiting the Rojo Rollers, I took a day tour of Numerun Antigua.

I met Red Number 3 at the top of Colina Umerun the next morning. It was my first time seeing them since last year’s Marble Rally, and they and I discussed the prospects of a 2020 Marble Rally on our way to the Rojo Rollers’ stadium. After their falling out last year, the Rollers had finally begun to reconnect with Red Number 3, extending congratulations to Red when they won last year’s championship. During this offseason, the legendary Marble Rally athlete found a manager for the Rollers. On top of that, they offered tips to Rojo Uno and Rojo Dos as the two worked on honing their skills for Marbula One and helped the team on a general basis as they worked to recover their morale.

            “It’s the least I can do for them,” said Red Number 3, modestly. “No matter what we went through in the past, they bring a part of Numerun to the League, and with that, all of Numerun’s history with marble sports. I have so much respect for that and I wish them the best.”

            “There is no doubt that we feel down about not qualifying for the fourth time in a row,” Rojo Uno stated. “But we are not going to let it get in the way of us appearing in next year’s Qualifiers. We have to keep trying.”

            “They are growing stronger and stronger as a team. I can clearly see that,” Rojo Macho, the team’s new manager, observed. “I really hope that’s enough to get them to advance.”

Greshen

My train ride into Greshen brought me from a dense city setting to the outer rim of a large, dense rainforest, with flora and fauna that Team Primary could only dream of painting. Jump, who welcomed me at the airport, brought me on a hiking trail that rolled us up to a viewpoint overlooking the entire city—and the treetops that the Jungle Jumpers leapt off of in the background. The entire team was waiting at the top for our arrival.

            “We’re working on ourselves as a team,” Hop noted. “We’re really working to center our focus and trust ourselves.”

            “I sounded more salty than I intended to be,” admitted Leap, in reference to their statement after Qualifiers. “I meant no disrespect towards the staff or the JMRC. Just know that I will always expect the best from the Marble League, because I know in my heart that it is the best.”

The team offered me a jumpsuit to dive off the cliff with. I respectfully declined.

Bonsel

My trip up Mt. Bonsel, where I would attend the village’s annual chocolate festival, was nothing short of fantastical, with spectacular views from the trolley car as it teetered up to the top. I was welcomed there by Choc, the team’s new captain, and they escorted me through the winding alleyways to the city center.

            “Candy would usually be here,” Choc explained, “but they’re busy training with the team in Jawnair. Are you going to visit them soon?”

I rolled back and forth in agreement. Choc smiled and directed me into a candy store, where the rest of the team was waiting.

            “This is my home,” Bonbon stated, with pride. “I’ve spent more hours in this shop than I have training, and it’s not even close.”

            “We’re currently working with other Marble League teams on selling different sweets worldwide,” Fudge continued. “We secured a deal with the O’rangers to sell chocolate-covered candied oranges, and we’re working with the Oceanics on salt-water taffy.”

            “But we’ve been training,” Cocoa hastily added. “Choc has been doing a great job leading the team. We feel more confident in team events now than we ever have before.”

I was fortunate enough to sample the Chocolatiers’ delicacies during my stay in Bonsel, and I can say with absolute confidence that their “Choco’rangers” are some of the best candies I have ever had. I’m looking forward to eating a whole bag of them during the Showdown!

Jawnair

I headed directly from Bonsel to Jawnair, arriving there for an overnight stay before returning to Polaria, and was welcomed by none other than Candy, who presented me with a complimentary jawbreaker candy. “Choc and I both agreed this would be the best gift to give to you when you arrived,” they stated, chuckling. “Look! It’s even colored like our team uniforms!”

I looked down at my candy, which, with its purple and white coloring, looked more like a dollop of Galaxy Toothpaste than one of the Jawbreakers. I grimaced as I popped the candy into my mouth.

            “I told you they wouldn’t like it,” said a marble in the front seat. Upon turning around, I vaguely recognized them: Mouthful, one of the original members of the Jawbreakers.

            “Well, you may be my manager, but I don’t care what—I mean…” Candy trailed off, noticing Mouthful’s stern expression. “Well, I hope you’re enjoying that, Stynth! We’ll be at our gym in a few minutes.”

I received a tour of the wrestling gym where Candy had trained for the ELMC, which was attached to the Jawbreakers’ training facility. As I toured the facility, I ran into Tidbit, the team’s reserve.

            “Things have been a little tense since I recruited Mouthful to return to the team as our manager, but we needed this. Mouthful isn’t only putting Candy in their place, but holding the rest of us accountable for our own actions,” Tidbit explained. “The newer team members are having a rough time adjusting, but they’ll get there. We all will.”

That night, I dreamt not of sugar plums, but of King Candy piledriving me into the ground. I woke up the next morning with a severe toothache.

Week 3: 04-08 July 2020

Isle Hyu

My flight from Polaria to Bright Hyu City departed late at night, which I was extremely grateful for—as I was only allotted a day in the home region of the Indigo Stars. I arrived in the city just as the sun was rising, and I watched the starlit skyline fade as the sky started to show its true blue hue.

            “You haven’t seen anything yet,” Indie vowed as they picked me up from the airport and escorted me into the city. I met up with the rest of the team in the Bright Hyu Bubble, where I toured their arena and training facilities, which were fit to hold a Marble League of over 10,000 attendees.

            “We made sure that our arena was up to world-class standards,” Coach Ringo said, recalling the Bubble’s construction plans. “Although we weren’t chosen in 2019 or considered for this year, I am hopeful that we will have the opportunity to host in future seasons.”

After the tour, the Stars treated me to a delicious seafood dinner (I love all things seafood!) early in the evening. We boarded the ferry to Isle Hyu closer to sunset, where we saw the sky turn from blue to orange once more. The sun disappeared behind the city just as the skyline erupted in color, dim enough to prevent light pollution from reaching the island, but light enough to recognize that every single bulb was a different pigment. I was once again viewing one of the “wonders of the modern world”.

Gogo motioned for me to turn around, and my jaw (somehow intact from my trip to Jawnair) dropped. Although I had written about Isle Hyu in my RetRollSpective, I had yet to see it in person—and now that I have, I cannot put into words how magnificent the island is.

            During our hike, Montoya put into words what it means for the Indigo Stars: “Isle Hyu is a place that frees us from the marbles we think we are. It is a space so pure that it renews us and gives us hope…and when we have hope, we have everything.”

Aslipi

I flew out of Bright Hyu City the following morning, landing in Aslipi during the early afternoon. Crush and Squirt picked me up from the airport and we headed to the Turtle Sliders’ training facility, Slider Academy.

            “Shelly decided to start an athletic training program during the offseason,” Crush explained. “While not all of us have the time to participate in it, we hear that Frank has been getting some skills out of it.”

            “To be frank, they need it,” Squirt jested.

We met Shelly at the Academy. Neither Dash nor Coach Splint were present, as Dash was visiting their family in Jamarbla and Splint was picking up pizza for us. Although the facility was officially certified by the JMRC, I noticed that it was severely underequipped.

            “That’s because you haven’t seen the rest of the Academy,” Shelly answered, calling the elevator up to our floor. As we traveled down, I could hear water splashing, and the doors opened to reveal a massive swimming pool. “As you can see, we’re not afraid of the water, and we use that to our advantage. Rolling through water takes much more effort than rolling through air. That’s how we get stronger.”

Before I could question how the Sliders train for Showdown events—none of which involve water—Splint arrived with pizza, and our interview ended before it began.

Rosaka

My final destination before returning to Polaria for the rest of the 2020 Marble League was Rosaka, the home city of the Pinkies. Thankfully, I was granted a two-day stay there to fight the jet lag and explore the city, which I did with Pinky Panther upon my arrival. Unlike their team members, Pinky Panther did not participate in kapinki theatre, but when we went to see a show in the evening, playgoers instantly recognized the athlete.

            “I used to dabble in forensics,” Pinky Panther whispered to me. “It never really appealed to me, even though I was able to get a job in it after university. I was much more interested in watching the Marble League, and it got me into athletic training. Before I knew it…the Pinkies needed a reserve member.”

The next day, I reunited with Pinky Panther at the team’s Ampinktheater. As I rolled up to the stadium, I saw no more than ten marbles gazing at the ocean from the pier. That part of the city was barren, and the outside lights of the stadium were dim. Inside the stadium, however, the lights shone bright as the Pinkies raced down the sand moguls to the tune of Coach Pinky Promise’s whistling.

            “They’ve adopted a strict training regiment,” the team’s manager, Pinky Ring, detailed. “They weren’t prepared for Qualifiers because they had been slacking off during training. They thought they could get by and qualify just as they always had.”

            “Things are different this time, and I feel more confident in my team now than I ever have,” the coach added before whistling again.

“Pinky Toe is on deck to captain after this season, so I’m really looking forward to see how they take the reins,” revealed Pinky Rosa. “We are so close to full bloom. I can feel it.”

The 2020 Marble League Showdown will premiere on 15 August at 3PM EDT / 7PM UTC.

Polaria

As I finish writing this article, the Showdown teams are starting to arrive at the Andromedome to train using Team Galactic’s world-class amenities. They will take the stage prior to the final event of the main tournament, which not only means that the final event really will be the conclusion of this season: it means that we will truly know which of these “offseason moments” pay off for the eight teams that advance…and which will extend into next season.

Until next time, keep on rolling!

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