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Fans Turn To Marble Racing For A Spectator Sports Fix

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Many of you do not need the reminder sports leagues around the world are suspended - no NBA, no Olympics, no Wimbledon. We won't get ahead of ourselves and talk about the NFL. But there is something to fill that competitive void.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG WOODS: And there is a look at your course. Marbles in the blocks, and they're off. Comet taking the early lead over the Flash. Then it's Reflektor, Mocha Madness, Tarantula. Reflektor up into second now. Mocha Madness - there's Deep Ocean flying up into second place.

KELLY: Marble racing.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Those are the opening moments from a race on the YouTube channel Jelle's Marble Runs. The channel has gained more than 150,000 new subscribers in the past three weeks. Among the races, Marbula One...

KELLY: ...And the Sand Marble Rally...

CHANG: ...Marble League Showdown...

KELLY: ...Even the MarbleLympics.

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WOODS: I'm Greg Woods in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,340 in the beautiful Seven Seas Stadium. We begin our quest for that - the gold trophy that will eventually be awarded to the champions of the MarbleLympics.

KELLY: That - by the way, that 11,340, that was marbles packing the stands, not people.

CHANG: Jelle and his brother Dion Bakker build tracks and stadiums for the races that can sometimes be ten laps long. The courses have sandpits, slides, funnels, hurdles, even an elevator. Greg Woods calls the action.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WOODS: And now Comet just like that fights back to the lead very quickly. It didn't take long at all. He is back out in front as they go through the tunnel blasting back out into the light. Tarantula trying to chase him down banging off the walls. Pollo Loco now into third.

KELLY: Woods, who by day works for the Alzheimer's Association, says none of the play-by-play is scripted.

WOODS: The reaction that you're hearing from me is a genuine reaction that I would hope the same sports fans are experiencing when they do it.

CHANG: And even after some of those old, boring sports leagues resume, Woods promises the marble races will keep rolling in. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.