As we in the JMRC were enjoying the 2020 offseason, we sent Stynth on a world tour during the first few weeks to interview every team that competed in the 2020 Marble League. Unlike the feature that interviewed Showdown teams, this article is split into two parts, each part featuring eight teams each. Read on to see which teams Stynth visited in their many offseason moments!
I could think of no better way to start my world tour than to attend the Savage Speeders’ homecoming parade in Vellis, which they were holding after their very own victory tour around Marblearth. I stood aside the city’s mayor and the Speeders’ new manager, Savvy, as they handed the Speeders their second honorary key to the city. The team members tried to hide their joy in an attempt to look professional, but I knew after speaking with them that they could not have been happier.
“It makes us look tough,” Speedy asserted. “But of course we’re happy we won the Marble League! Between this championship and winning both Marbula One championships, this really is our year.”
“You don’t need to put that façade up,” Coach Quickly disagreed. “It doesn’t make you look tough. It makes you look out-of-touch.”
“We’re the best team in the League. We are untouchable,” refuted Rapidly.
Coach Quickly sighed. I followed the other three team members into the Speeders’ medal room, which was starting to look more like a museum with the amount of display cases and trophies they had from the Tour de Vellis, Marble League, and Marbula One. The Speeders have earned twenty-four medals during their five seasons in the Marble League, the most of any team in history. Their first medal, earned in the 2016 Relay Run, was barely visible behind the Speeders’ nine other gold medals, with their 2020 Collision gold in front.
The next day, I witnessed all six of the Savage Speeders compete in an exhibition match of the Tour de Vellis prior to my flight to Draklin. Although Coach Quickly finished well behind their five team members, the coach beamed at me as they crossed the finish line to thunderous applause. I couldn’t help but grin and join the crowd, clapping as the Savage Speeders hoisted Quickly up on their backs.
The city of Draklin, though similar in being a bustling metropolis, was considerably less energetic about their Marble League representation than Vellis. As I looked across the River Larkey, the sky was grey with a light drizzle dotting the otherwise still reflection of the stream. Ducks gathered near the shore, quietly quacking as they looked for food.
Billy reached the bridge a few minutes later and we left, heading towards Joshdon Stadium to meet with the rest of the team. “This year did not go the way we expected it to. From the Friendly Round to the Sand Mogul Race, we just never got all the way there. We were barely even halfway there.”
We reached the stadium in about an hour, taking the underground out of the city center and towards the suburbs. When we arrived, Coach Bombay had just finished cooking dinner for the team: curry chicken served over rice.
“Look, we’re not actually ducks!” Bombay jested.
As we ate, the team members were unusually quiet for being such close friends. After finishing their meal, Mallard finally spoke up.
“It’s just…I’ve been trying to process it over the past few weeks, and it’s been really difficult for us. The whole season was a blur and when it came down to it, we ultimately weren’t prepared for the competition. We thought for certain that we were going to win.”
“It’s not like we didn’t train,” added Ducky. “I was pretty close on Funnel Endurance. I think we underestimated our competition. We definitely underestimated the Speeders.”
“Honestly, I feel bad for the Racers,” admitted Mallard. “At least they medaled—they just couldn’t be as consistent as they were last year. We had the same issue.”
The next day, I took an early flight to Stormholm, a city new to my travels. I’d previously avoided it due to its reputation of severe weather patterns, but when my flight arrived, the sky was as blue as the Thunderbolts, who I would be visiting for the day in a pretty cool opportunity.
I entered the convention center through the front and was instantly swarmed by Marble League fans. I thought that my Team Momo cap would obscure some of my stripes, but it was flattering to see fans recognize me from the ceremonies and press box. I stopped for a few autographs and selfies before security found me and whisked me away. Apparently, I was supposed to enter through the back door!
I entered my own dressing room, where I swapped out my Team Momo hat for a journalist’s pad, cheekily trying to balance it on top of my head when Coach Thunderstorm rolled in. As I hastily grabbed the pad off of my head, the five current members of the Thunderbolts lined up in front of me—and in front of them, the five original members of the Thunderbolts. We rolled out of the room together and into the press room to thunderous applause from hundreds of Marble League fans, ascending the ramp to the stage and taking our seats.
The Thunderbolts’ new manager, Static, had a few words to say at the start of the conference: “What a historic moment. I think it’s really important to note that although our franchise hasn’t had the best performances or luck, it’s built on a legacy of overcoming adversity in everything we do. Each of our athletes can attest to that.”
Bolto rolled back in approval, translating to: “Our achievements aren’t greater than the new team, even if we finished on the podium in 2016. It’s not about winning.”
“It’s about staying determined,” added Bolta. “We’ve all been there, and we have all succeeded from our best to our worst.”
I left Stormholm that night, boarding an overnight ferry to Helarve. I made it to the little city the following afternoon and was greeted on the dock by Wispy and Willow, the Midnight Wisps’ new manager. I asked them where we’d be going that day, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we were heading to Harva National Park, the forest where the Wisps were once permanently banned from, for a dedication ceremony.
The ceremony for the newly named “Midnight Hollow National Park” was held at the Midnight Wisps’ training grounds, notched within a densely forested valley. The river rushed beside the speakers as they gave their invocations, with family members of the team beaming through tears of joy. The Wisps themselves were the last ones to speak, and they each huddled around Wispy as they took the stand.
“We wouldn’t have trespassed through the forest all those years ago if we didn’t appreciate the beauty of the hollow. We owe our entire career as athletes and our entire friendships as marbles to this very place.” Wispy paused for a moment, listening to the forest around them. One by one, Willow Wisps started appearing in an arch over the stage. Wispy smiled.
After spending the weekend in Helarve, I flew back to mainland Europe on Monday, touching down just past fields of berries at Rubow International Airport at around noon. I arranged for my own transportation to reach the Razzway, and was picked up by none other than Barry, the former member of the Raspberry Racers.
“I lost my job midway through the Marble League and I had to get back to work,” Barry said as we navigated around a traffic circle in the city of Rubow. “Being an Uberry driver was the last thing I would want to do otherwise, but I had to do this for my family.”
As we passed the city limits and entered Tumbletown, Barry sighed. “I remember when they fired me, and I was so upset and angry at myself. They were angry at themselves too.”
I felt some of that frustration later that night at the team’s farm. We were making homemade raspberry gelato and some of the team members started debating how much milk to use, an argument that quickly advanced beyond the topic of measuring dairy.
“What’s the next thing you’re going to tell me, that I have to mix the milk in for 10 minutes and 52 seconds? Give me a break,” Razzy joked, smirking widely. The rest of the team looked blankly at their captain.
Later that night, we bonded over a taste test of the Racers’ new syrup, the “Raspberry Space Racer”, which paired well with a bowl of “Mint Chocolate Condition”. Ruzzy summarized the team’s feelings succinctly towards the end of the night:
“This season just didn’t go the way we were expecting it to. It definitely didn’t go the way we wanted it to. But we’re not going to give up—we learned a lot from falling as hard as we did this year, and we’re looking forward to prove that we’ve learned our lesson next year. None of this is for granted, after all.”
My heart-to-heart with the Racers ended too soon: I was whisked off by train to the vast region of Buzznya following a scrumptious farm-to-table breakfast at the Von Neuman Farm the next morning. I booked a few days worth of travel in the region for research on the Bug Circuit, the largest sports tournament in the region, and would be traveling east throughout the region to interview different teams and even witness a match of the 2020 season, held in the Grasshoppers’ Turf Field.
My first team to visit turned out to be the Hornets, who seemed to be rising stars in marble sports around this time last year. What happened to the Showdown runners-up and Marbula One invitees that caused them to crash in both Marbula One and the Marble League? I was interested in finally obtaining some answers.
When I arrived at their given address, I was quite confused: they had given me directions to a landfill, and there I was, gagging at the putrid stench of piles of trash. My first instinct was to call Coach Swarm.
“Oh…you accidentally went to 11 Hive Drive. The directions for our Hivedrive are 11 Hive Street.”
I checked my maps. Hive Street and Hive Drive intersected one another, bordering the landfill. I scrolled down. “Did you mean 11 Hive Avenue? That’s within the city center…it looks like there’s a stadium there—”
The phone line went dead.
I was on the verge of giving up, but I knew that wouldn’t be fair. I called an Uberry driver and headed into Buzzkill, getting off at 11 Hive Avenue. Though the streetlamps were dim, I could just make out a Gravitrax structure behind one of the buildings. The word “Hivedrive” adorned the side of the arena.
“You still came?” a voice asked behind me.
I turned around. Stinger, the captain of the Hornets, rolled across the street holding an umbrella. It wasn’t raining.
“The team…we…we’re pretty ashamed of how we’ve done over the past year,” Stinger admitted, looking with melancholy over the brim of their umbrella. “They didn’t want to show today.”
It made sense. I was disappointed—not even the Limers had turned me away in their most desperate hour. Nevertheless, I was there at that moment, and I heard Stinger out.
“As their captain, I’m going to speak for them, even if they don’t want me to. We’re going to come back from this.”
I was surprised by how nice of a time I had in the rest of Buzznya that I almost forgot about my “directions misadventure”. My last stop in the region was Buzzpig, the home city of the Bumblebees.
I was greeted by the Royal Family of Buzznya at their palace by their coach, Queen. Queen took me to the courtyard, where the Bumblebees were setting up for a game of bugby. “I much prefer cricket,” admitted Queen, “but this is still a lot of fun to watch.”
The Bumblebees were facing off against the Ladybugs, who I had visited a few days prior. The Ladybugs were practically no contest for the Marble League veterans as Swax executed a try out in the open, closing the game with the Ladybugs ceding to majority rule. Later that day, we rolled through the Royal Gardens, admiring the beehives that adorned the trees along the path.
“I know we should bee training for the exhibition tournament,” Honey admitted, referring to the upcoming reunion of the Herbotamia Tournament. “We wanted to have a little fun, though. It’s not like we’re going to win against the Minty Maniacs this time, anyway.”
“I would bee mad if we did. They were absolutely incredible this season,” added Bumble.
That night, we tried a cup of “Minty Bee Tea” each before going to bed. Not realizing the tea was caffeinated, I drank the whole cup and couldn’t fall asleep. The Bumblebees and I departed together the next day for Chlorotopia, a city in Herbotamia that would house the exhibition tournament. We played Marbles & Monoliths on the bus ride over and had a ton of fun—even though my character, Momomomomomo, was shattered into pieces by an evil giant fidget spinner. I think that’ll be in my nightmares tonight.
Upon our arrival in Chlorotopia, the Bumblebees were whisked away to their own private training facility, and I was “retrieved” by none other than Minty Fresh, a star athlete during the 2020 Marble League. They were surprisingly jittery on the car ride to the training facility at their Pepper Field. I can’t understand why they were nervous—I’d never be able to earn two golds in one season!
The Minty Maniacs trained on the field, fighting the hot sun as they practiced relay race handoffs. I praised the team’s proactivity to their manager, Spearmint.
“It’s our philosophy,” Spearmint replied. “The best way we can preserve the legacy of this incredible year is to work on the aspects that weren’t so incredible.”
The other teams arrived that night for the opening ceremony. All of the original Hubelino teams were in attendance, including Team Phoenix and the Bumblebees. I was surprised to see a few other teams take the field: the Yarble Yellers, Grape Nuts, and Team Plasma lining up alongside the Bumblebees.
“We didn’t want to leave out either Team Phoenix or the Bumblebees, so we decided to make this a twelve-team tournament modeled after the Showdown. These teams are regional anyway, so we get to preserve the original spirit of the Herbotamia Tournament,” explained Spearmint.
There was limited seating for family and other close friends, but I was fortunate enough to get a top-notch view from the bleachers. The audience was asked to hold their applause until the end of the tournament, and they did great at following the rule—better than me!
You may be asking, “who won?” I am not at the liberty to tell you: every athlete and member of the audience was required to sign a strict NDA prior to entering Pepper Field. What I am at the liberty to tell you, though, is that the tournament was tightly put together and a joy to watch. The passion that each athlete displayed was inspiring, and there was virtually no pressure—aside from the occasional competitive jest.
The Herbotamia Tournament is a beautiful tradition that brings together athletes for the purity of the sport. Even though the Minty Maniacs and Bumblebees won’t be able to host the tournament as a season, I do hope it lives on past this night.
FISH TO FISH MEDIA BV | Hannie Dankbaarpassage 14, 1053 RT Amsterdam, Netherlands
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