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RetRollSpective – Crazy Cat’s Eyes

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have appeared in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to eye up the Crazy Cat’s Eyes, a team that debuted in the 2018 Winter Marble League and will be hosting the 2021 Marble League. Read on to find out how this team has clawed through their competition!

The official logo for the Crazy Cat’s Eyes, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes are best known not for their appearance in Marble League competitions, but their likenesses that are portrayed in the Marble League logo. The team was personally requested to be featured by Pim Leurs after they settled on the final design.

“It was a true honor to accept,” said Red Eye, the team’s captain. “The photoshoot was a lot of fun, and we even got to meet Jelle themselves.”

“I tagged along for emotional support,” remarked Cyan Eye. “It would have been cool to be in the logo, but I’m over it,” they said, glancing behind them as a transparent and black cat’s eye marble rolled past them to be professionally photographed.

The four Crazy Cat’s Eyes posing with another cat’s eye marble for the Marble League logo.

All things considered, the Cat’s Eyes would not have been asked to model for the logo if they had not been so successful in marble sports. The team hails from Felynia, a city perched between two rivers known for its prestige in film and entertainment. The dunes outside of the city are nicknamed the “Cat’s Dunes” in honor of Crazy Cat’s Eye, a Marble Rally athlete that trains there in solitude. Crazy Cat’s Eye’s fans in the city are numerous, but they train alone in the dry, hot sand, knowing no fan is crazy enough to travel as far into the desert as them.

Their fans in the city may be numerous, but only six of them have joined Crazy Cat’s Eye in international marble sports tournaments. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes, inspired by but not affiliated with the Marble Rally athlete, became the only major sports team in Felynia. Each team member hails from a different district in the city, chosen to represent Felynia in marble sports.

“We didn’t know each other at first, no,” confirmed Blue Eye. “I would argue that has made us closer, though.”

Green Eye added, “It’s made us want to get to know each other better.”

The city of Felynia submitted the team to compete in the 2015 Knikkegen Marble League, which had received an influx of applications from around the world. The Cat’s Eyes were accepted into the tournament.

“It was awesome and scary and wonderful,” Yellow Eye reflected. “We were better at events focusing on accuracy, like Balancing, and team events, like Team Pursuit. Speed was not our strongest suit.”

“I trained them the best I could with what I knew,” White Eye, the team’s coach since 2015, asserted. “We focused on honing our stealth and our speed—two ancient Felyni traditions that ensure the mastery of quick precision in competitions. They weren’t up to speed then.”

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes, after placing eleventh in their rookie season, returned home to Felynia as the 2016 Marble League began, but they continued to train. A year and a half later, the team’s application for the 2018 Winter Marble League Qualifiers was accepted, and the Crazy Cat’s Eyes left for the Arctic Circle to compete.

If you’re looking for a strong first impression, look no further than the Crazy Cat’s Eyes in 2018.

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes were sorted into Group A and appeared in the first heat of the 2018 Winter Marble League Qualifiers alongside the Hazers, another rookie team. Blue Eye rolled and stopped right on the button, and their show-stopping accuracy helped the Cat’s Eyes place third in their qualifying debut. Yellow Eye’s third-place finish in the 5 Meter Ice Dash, coupled with two fifth-place finishes in the Snow Rally and the Halfpipe, allowed the team to qualify for the main tournament of the 2018 Marble League, fourth in their group.

Yellow Eye earned the team’s first bronze medal in the second event, Ski Jump, with a distance of 119.2 centimeters. After placing second-to-last in the Halfpipe, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes proceeded to place sixth thrice in a row, rising to eighth by the midpoint of the 2018 season. Their sixth-place streak ended when Red Eye competed in the Snow Rally and placed thirteenth, and the team fell to eleventh overall.

“The 2018 standings weren’t spread that far apart, but we were having a hard time keeping up with everyone else,” Red Eye confessed. “We were in twelfth going into the Biathlon, and we weren’t getting the attention that the Hazers or even the Racers were.”

Of course, the Biathlon was the Crazy Cat’s Eyes’ shining moment in the 2018 season—it was an event that tested both speed, handoffs, and accuracy. The Cat’s Eyes finished with a time of 25.53 and 3 points off the time, not only earning a gold medal but breaking a Marble League record.

Although the O’rangers took some of the spotlight for earning their first medal of 2018, the Cat’s Eyes’ gold should not be overlooked.

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes were one of ten teams that could win the 2018 Marble League going into the final event, where they came in at tenth place. The team remained there as Yellow Eye placed dead last in the Sand Mogul Race, and finished their rookie season with 96 points earned.

“I know I could have done better, but I didn’t expect to win,” admitted Yellow Eye. “We always felt behind the competition. There’s always next year!”

They continued to lag behind the competition during the offseason, where Red Eye did not finish the 100 Meter Water Race and the team placed last in the Amazing Maze Marble Race. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes’ chances of making it into the 2019 Marble League did not seem high.

All of the doubt surrounding the team disappeared completely after the first event of Qualifiers, where Green Eye flexed on their competition with a time of nearly two minutes in Funnel Endurance and placed first of the twenty teams. Even after placing last in Block Pushing, the team dropped only to fourth overall. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes qualified for the 2019 Marble League in third place overall thanks to Blue Eye’s third-place finish in the Underwater Race, with 54 points earned.

Green Eye, showboating in the final funnel, set a good impression for their team early in the 2019 season.

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes entered the 2019 season with their eyes on the prize, having specialized in team events and honing their accuracy through stealth training. Blue Eye began the season where they left off, placing ninth in the Underwater Race. Coach White Eye put Yellow Eye in for Funnel Endurance instead of Green Eye, who was training for the 5 Meter Sprint. Unfortunately, Yellow Eye was not able to replicate their teammate’s success, placing fourteenth and dropping the team to thirteenth overall.

The team quickly turned around their fortunes in three events, medaling thrice in a row. The Cat’s Eyes’ first medal came in a team event that focused on accuracy—Balancing, an event that they had not officially competed in nearly five years. That seemed to mean nothing for the team, though, as Green Eye and Yellow Eye coasted to the green zone at the end and broke the Rojo Rollers’ four-year-old record. The team held on to the provisional lead, with a score of 351, until the Thunderbolts and Hazers surpassed the record—but the Crazy Cat’s Eyes remained on the podium to earn a bronze medal.

They “would not be denied” in the fourth event, Gravitrax Slalom, as Greg Woods put it. The event, much like the Biathlon, was an ideal combination for the Crazy Cat’s Eyes: a team pursuit focusing on speed and tested on Gravitrax, which was the team’s preferred track to train on. The Cat’s Eyes earned their first gold of the 2019 Marble League in a decisive victory against the Raspberry Racers, Jungle Jumpers, and Green Ducks in the final—figuratively scratching, tearing, and ripping apart their competition, as the message on the jumbotron alluded.

Early on in the 2019 season, the Cat’s Eyes were as dominant as the Raspberry Racers.

The grand finale of the Crazy Cat’s Eyes’ three-event charge came in the 5 Meter Sprint, which Green Eye competed in after missing Funnel Endurance. Coach White Eye’s decision paid off, as the sprinter snuck into the final after placing second in both their heat and their semifinal, and earned a bronze medal with a time of 6.238 seconds. At the end of the fifth event, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes rose comfortably to fourth place in the standings.

The Cat’s Eyes remained a constant in the top half of the standings for most of the remainder of the season, remaining around fifth and sixth besides some finishes in the lower middle of the pack. Some of the team’s best finishes were in Block Pushing, where they placed sixth, and the Elimination Race, where Red Eye earned the team’s third bronze medal of the season in a nail-biting finale. With three events to go and four medals to their name, the team was in a position to claim the prize.

If their last three events were anything to go by—which they were—it seemed that the Crazy Cat’s Eyes had lost sight of the competition. Red Eye competed in Surfing, the event immediately following their bronze medal, and placed dead last, highlighting an unusually tone-deaf roster decision by the coach. The team’s momentum all but evaporated after this, as does the rain in the hot desert of the Cat’s Dunes, and the Crazy Cat’s Eyes finished the 2019 Marble League in eleventh overall after two more finishes in the bottom of the standings.

Is three a magic number for the Crazy Cat’s Eyes?

For all the talk of the Oceanics’ collapse, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes had one of the worst streaks in Marble League history in their last three events. On their journey back to Felynia, the many fans that went along with the team grumbled all the way through. How could their team blow a chance at the Marble League podium like that? How could they follow up a last-place finish in the Sand Moguls with a second-to-last showing in the Sand Rally? And how can this team carry on the legend of Crazy Cat’s Eye when the athletes seem to dry up at the sight of sand?

The topic of their sand performance was touchy for Red Eye. “We look up to Crazy Cat’s Eye so much. If it wasn’t for their influence on marble sports, we would not have been chosen to compete. That said, we are always looking to improve our performance in the Marble League and I don’t think it’s fair to compare our skills in sand events to theirs.”   

More than ever, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes were rarely seen during their practice sessions. Red Eye, a celebrity around town, was not seen for many months, even as the marble world kept its sights on Marbula One. That was when a rumor started to spread. Some of the Crazy Cat’s Eyes athletes were seen rolling to the east, heading straight for the Cat’s Dunes…

Great Expectations

an addendum by Fouc & Ghostly

When the Crazy Cat’s Eyes lined up before the Andromedome balance beam, it was the first time they had competed together in a year. The other teams read the press releases – that Felynia’s High Council, led by the fair Cleocatra, invested heavily in the team, that they now have a new manager by the name of Bullseye – but none of that mattered if the athletes flopped in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers.

Then the gate snapped back, each athlete sped down their lane on the beam, and the team scored 30 more points than the current leaders, the Savage Speeders.

Apart from a blunder in Block Pushing, the Cat’s Eyes during Qualifiers were no longer a midfield team. Even if the Speeders scored the most points in the Qualifiers, the Cat’s Eyes were safely in second. From Red Eye to Cyan Eye, they all clocked faster times than before.

Asked for comment after their second-place showing in the Qualifiers’ 5 Meter Sprint, Red Eye said: “Podium or not, at every point during the Qualifiers we were doing better.” That quote sums up the team’s trend for all of last year.

The one exception might be the Cat’s Eyes’ performance at the opening event of Marble League 2020, Balancing. The team placed fifth, their worst placement in that event, but the team’s reliable teamwork returned in Halfpipe. They got a silver medal with a total time of 64.49 seconds, beating the Minty Maniacs in third by over 5 seconds. Stynth reported: 

While the Minty Maniacs are getting the most attention out of the newer teams, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes have also shown up, earning their first silver medal. Either of their Halfpipe successes against the Hornets would have broken the Balls of Chaos’ record, and their first heat would have broken the Maniacs’ record. Green Eye’s performance in their second heat, while not record-breaking, was one of the best among individual marble athletes.

from “Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 2”, by Stynth

Cyan Eye finished in the top half in Funnel Endurance whereas Yellow Eye was in the bottom three on last year’s track. In Newton’s Cradle, Yellow Eye leaped to glory off of Green Eye’s strike and just barely missed a podium, a quarter of a centimeter away.

“It always stings when you get so close to victory just to barely fall short,” Yellow Eye remarked afterward. “We’ve been very close to getting our second medal this year these past two events. I’m hoping we can push even further beyond this and get a new medal!”

The Cat’s Eyes were confident they could continue their success in the Long Jump, as they had won a bronze in the Ski Jump in 2018. Sure enough, Blue Eye made a perfect landing to nab the gold. With eyes on the Minty Maniacs and the O’rangers dueling for first, White Eye’s team was 5 points behind the leader and 28 points ahead of fourth place, finding themselves the only team putting pressure on the top two.

Blue Eye’s gold in the 2020 Long Jump was a boost to public confidence for both the athlete and other members of the Cat’s Eyes.

With a chance to lead the overall standings, Yellow Eye took to the starting gate for the 5 Meter Hurdles. Overshadowed by Razzy’s record-breaking runs in their heat and semi-final, the Cat’s Eye rolled out of the starting gate in the semifinals and found it now hard to explain what they did there. But afterward, they were told they had shattered the new hurdles record by 0.2 seconds, lowering the time to 8.126s.

Still finding it hard to consistently start well, Yellow Eye would squander an early lead and finish fourth at Hurdles. But they were undeterred, later stating: “Knowing I’m a world record holder is just fantastic. Lots of times after that event, I’d feel exhausted in training and Coach would tell me: ‘you have a world record, so why can’t you go one more lap?’ It’s funny how that always works on me.”

Yellow Eye lengths ahead in their record-breaking Hurdles semifinal.

A solid seventh place in Block Pushing was followed by twelfth, seventh, and twelfth in Triathlon, Sand Mogul Race, and 5m Sprint, respectively. These results evoked a sinking feeling Cat’s Eyes fans know too well: the last-minute collapse or the wider case of the “Second Half Curse.” In the 2018 Marble League, their team went from eighth after Event 6 to an overall placement of tenth; in the 2019 Marble League, a sixth-place performance by Event 8 resolved in eleventh place by the end of the competition.

The team overall stayed in third place despite it all, but they went from a one-point gap from the top two after Hurdles to being at risk of getting overtaken by the Wisps and Raspberry Racers in the standings by the end of the 5 Meter Sprint.

As fans began sweating bullets, dreading the familiar fall from grace, up came the Black Hole Funnel. Unlike many other teams, coach White Eye benched the duo from Newton’s Cradle for a new pairing in the Black Hole Funnel, using Red Eye and Blue Eye this time around. The fans’ fears were dashed away as the duo nabbed a bronze in the event! As Stynth reported from the scene:

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes continued to up the ante on their best season yet, remaining in championship contention by earning their third overall medal in the Black Hole Funnel. Both of the Cat’s Eyes’ runs exceeded 35 seconds, with their first run being the strongest of the two thanks to Red Eye’s dominant performance.

They, with a run of 33.15, recorded the longest individual time in the funnels across both runs. “I’ll admit, it was a bit eerie when Quacky dropped down from the funnel and it was just me. But I knew I had to keep on rolling, and I let myself do just that until I fell to the bottom. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my career.

With their bronze, the team found themselves just ten points away from claiming the lead.

from “Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 11”, by Stynth
The Cat’s Eyes and the Green Ducks in a Black Hole Funnel run.

The joy would not last long. The Cat’s Eyes’ record in the Winter Biathlon drove their fans to believe they would podium in the Relay events soon enough, and yet in 2020, they would hear Greg Woods call out Green Eye’s “slow start” out the starting gate in the opening heat. Three slow and unfocused passes later, the Cat’s Eyes finished last in the Relay with the only time above nine seconds, dropping to fifth overall.

“To make things worse, only team management and our athletes knew about our Marbula One and 2021 hosting bids back then,” said White Eye. “I kept fielding calls from Bullseye that the High Council would scale down funding for both bids if the team can’t be expected to podium next year. I didn’t tell my athletes that, naturally.”

The more the Cat’s Eyes could not triumph over the Second Half Curse, the more their fans seemed to believe in it. Going into the final event, the team had four straight bottom-half finishes and was eliminated from championship contention. After never leaving the top-five throughout the entirety of the league, they were now in danger of ending in sixth with the Hazers close behind.

“It was not a fun time. We needed to get away from finger-pointing at Green Eye or Red Eye,” recalled White Eye. “I told my team to stick to the schedule, we’ll take a break for Showdown day and we’ll get out and cheer for our friends, the Turtle Sliders.”

Yellow Eye hosting Shelly at a Felyni garden. (Photo Credit: Piney)

The friendship between the Cat’s Eyes and the Turtle Sliders came out of a chance encounter. “After the 2018 Marble League, we would make these trips around the world to connect with the top teams,” said White Eye. “Then right before we were to meet the Oceanics in Dunduei, we were told they had to cancel to finalize some personnel changes.”

With a trip to the other end of Marblearth booked but in search of a team to engage with, the Cat’s Eyes sent out a request to the only other team they knew there – the historic rivals to the Oceanics, the Turtle Sliders. Their veteran member, Shelly, was thrilled to meet.

“It was one of our best trips ever,” said Blue Eye. “We grew up in the desert, but the Sliders knew that and took us boating all around the nearby islands. They showed us all their facilities and we dived and raced underwater together!”

The Cat’s Eyes feast on their trip with the Turtle Sliders. (Photo Credit: Nugget)

The Sliders would then make several trips to the Cat’s Eyes’ Felyni grounds. “Our trip last year was eye-opening. We’ve never seen any team take racing pace and acceleration as seriously as our Felyni friends,” said the captain, Crush. “With the rest of the sports world focused on each other in Marbula One, we agreed to keep these techniques a secret.”

Even though the Sliders could not exit the Showdown’s relegation zone, we must think the Cat’s Eyes were thrilled to see Squirt dash out the starting gate in the final Sand Moguls, taking the lead. Unfortunately, none of Squirt’s Felyni training aided them in staying straight, as they would end third in their heat.

“I talked to Squirt and Shelly after Showdown, since both our teams were feeling the nerves,” said Red Eye. “But you know what? They told us right away they want to practice with us again in Felynia.”

“I spoke with Red Eye before the Marathon and they told the same story,” said White Eye. Then they said, ‘what does it mean if we’re not trying as hard as them?’ I told the team Red Eye had a point: if we let ourselves be defined by curses and we’re not trying to break the pattern, then we’ll never have that champions’ mindset, that thirst to win. And then Red Eye told me they had to go out for the Marathon.”

Good feelings aside, we encountered the one issue the team would not go into detail about: how they reacted to the controversial qualifying race before the Marathon, where, by the first lap, a collision off a chicane left Red Eye stranded, only getting started again a lap later. Everyone referred to what we already knew: that an exceptional consensus among coaches let Red Eye start the main race in P5 on the grid, and the sincere gratitude the racer directed to the JMRC for the ruling.

Red Eye stranded after Lap 1 of the Qualifying Race.

More informative is an interview with O’rangers coach Rango following the 2020 Marble League. “It’s important that us coaches and the organizers worked out a solution,” said Rango. “Without going into details, there was a real risk the final race would go on with only 15 teams. In the end, Kinnowin and our team would have made up ground over the race, but a race defined by a crash and controversy is not fair to anyone.”

Starting at fifth, Red Eye still lost control in the opening laps and fell to a low of eleventh. But then the team captain made multiple overtakes out of the starting gate, shooting to fifth a third of the way through and climbing their way to a bronze medal. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes secured a fifth-place finish in the 2020 Marble League with 160 points, and the celebration was just getting started.

The “podium moment” at the end of the 2020 Marathon.

“Right before the closing ceremony, our team heard the JMR Committee unanimously approved our bid,” said Blue Eye. “I had to keep my composure because White Eye and I had to give our press conference about all this, but that night I was just in a daze. The budget the High Council set for our games is astronomical. I watched our fans rolling with joy in the City Square because of the bid, and I watched them cheer for us from their balconies for the first time.”

“After another soul-crushing second half, I wasn’t expecting much,” said Violet Eye, a noted Felyni pundit. “But Red Eye finally handed us fans a good season finish, by far the best the team has ever had, and CCE got picked to host on top of it. At that point I thought we had peaked for the year. Little did I know how wrong I was.”

The schedule was tight for the athletes. In Felynia, the High Council would tear down Felynia’s athletic fields to build a world-class Coliseum, with seating for 20,000. Suddenly, the team had to manage business deals and stadium construction, and with this background, Stynth visited the Crazy Cat’s Eyes during the 2020 offseason:

“The finish line should be just about in sight with Crazy Cat’s Eye…gonna cross the line first if things hold out as they are? Yes, they do!”

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes were cheering as I rolled into their arena, which was rife with scaffolding, paint cans, and wet concrete. I had heard Greg Woods’ voice booming through the speakers, almost as if they were really commentating in the stadium—but as I listened, I realized it was just a replay of the first race of the 2019 Marble Rally.

            “We can’t go to this year’s Marble Rally. We have to train,” Coach White Eye insisted. “We’re not taking our prequalification spot for granted, and we’re not going to let the host’s curse get in our way. Next year is our moment…”

The next logical step in our conversation was to ask the team about the rumors of them searching for the legendary Marble Rally athlete in the Cat’s Dunes.

            Red Eye immediately started sweating. “What are you talking about? That was just the press trying to stir up the…uh…sand. Plus, we know Crazy Cat’s Eye wouldn’t actually want us to bother them during their training. It would be a waste of time.”

from “Offseason Moments – ML2020 Part 2”, by Stynth
Scaffolding for Felynia Coliseum at an early stage.

The coach also had to respond to the JMRC invitation for the second season of Marbula One. There was no denying sending Red Eye, the “Crimson Cat,” but the second spot was harder.

“Lots and lots – half my team, even – felt we should go with Blue Eye,” said White Eye. “But I talked to Red Eye and Blue Eye about this as well. Yellow Eye and Green Eye both had just one bronze to their names, and I thought I had to take a risk on one of them to hone that champion’s mindset in them.”

As some Felyni pundits predicted, Yellow Eye’s superior form to Green Eye at Polaria gave them the nod for Marbula One. The “Flashy Feline” joined the team captain on a promotional shoot in the dunes, thrusting Yellow Eye into the eyes of marble sports fans.

Official promotional poster for the Crazy Cat’s Eyes Marbula One team.
(Artwork credit: Jack Ironhide)

With no circuit up to grade for Marbula racing in Felynia, manager Bullseye struck a deal with Limers’ manager Blimey, renting out their legacy Sotsevsa track for training between each Grand Prix. Two weeks before the Minty Mania GP, Red Eye and Yellow Eye would take turns setting times at the Sotsevsa “Lime Lap,” shaped like an L and allowing the Cat’s Eyes to practice coming out of turns and accelerating on straights.

An artist’s rendition of the Sotsevsa track (we confirmed the real track has no trash can).
(Artwork Credit: Spex)

News of this was only revealed close to the end of the Marbula One Season’s first half, and even then some racers first reacted to the training regime as if it were a practical joke.

But, according to Yellow Eye, “us and Coach only had tapes to review before figuring out our training, and we saw all the times that racers would get wiped out on the hairpin or the turn. And the Limers gave us a good deal! Red Eye and I just checked up on each other to make sure our turns stayed perfect.”

Race day came soon enough. At the Minty Mania GP, Yellow Eye volunteered to start in the opening pair of qualifiers, setting a lap time alongside the defending Racer Champion, Speedy. It took a moment for anyone to notice Yellow Eye gained ground on the opening esses, and then the newcomer kept clean off the final walls while Speedy could not. Yellow Eye had the faster time, and the fastest time overall.

Yellow Eye watching Speedy roll out at the Minty Mania GP.

There are no lack of replays of those first four GPs for the Cat’s Eyes. Yellow Eye never conceded the lead except for a few seconds during their win at Minty Mania. Red Eye started on the second row of the O’raceway GP after a double overtake in qualifiers, ending with a silver. Yellow Eye continued the podium streak with a bronze at the Honeydome. At the Aquamaring, Red Eye almost always stuck to the inner lane on the drag strip that scrambled others’ race lines, fending off challenges from the Thunderbolts’ Bolt to win with 26 points.

No team so consistently challenged or took the lead in every race of the season’s first half. Greg Woods had all the superlatives to describe them: “the team to beat,” “superb grip,” “absolutely peerless.”

Or take how other racers described them. For Bolt, Red Eye “simply does not let up no matter how fast their past laps were. It’s exhausting just to remember.” For Momo of Team Momo, “I saw the three or four lengths I was behind Yellow Eye at Minty Mania but just couldn’t close it after the restart. I never felt so close and yet so far.” Bumble, Starry, Billy, and Tumult all recall how a Cat’s Eye overtook them on the slightest slip-up.

Red Eye with an early lead change at the Aquamaring GP.

In truth, both Cat’s Eyes had lost momentum in the early laps of the O’raceway and the Honeydome as well, yet fought back and podiumed in both. But neither had the right feel for the tight turns on Tumult Turnpike and Arctic Circuit, Yellow Eye placing seventh and Red Eye eighth respectively. The racers began to have doubts, wondering what changed in the last two races.

Despite their doubts, they still podiumed in four of six GPs, scoring 102 points, ahead of second-place by a gold medal’s worth in points. For the first time, the Racer’s Standings had first and second both occupied by the same team, Red Eye at 52 points and Yellow Eye at 50.

Even with such a lead in the Championship, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes kept to their routine. Invited to the Marble League Winter Special next to the Himarblelayas, the team had several weeks to spare. They spent all of it practicing at Sotsevsa or other circuits where they were invited.

Bullseye spoke frankly about the mental toll of spending so long away from home. “It got to the point that my team, every day after practice they’d call me about if I could get them Felyni Falafel. That’s the kind of food your parents know how to make and no one else. I had to hunt for a chef from back home to fly over to them!”

At the Winter Special, Coach White Eye wanted to give their Marbula One stars extra rest and sent Blue Eye into the opening 5 Meter Ice Dash. Placed into a “heat of death” with Smoggy, Clementin, and Minty Drizzel, that extra rest paid off when Blue Eye charged past Clementin and set a new event record.

The three-way photo finish during Heat 1 of the Ice Dash.

“It was not easy fighting to win in every heat!” said Blue Eye. “Something sent me leaping into the air in the semis, sensing Smoggy speeding up to push me aside in the final… I only won because I kept my cool.”

The other teams’ consternation at yet another Cat’s Eyes gold was short-lived. Fans could only cite the Second Half Curse as the team placed no higher than eighth for the remaining events, including a first-round elimination in Ice Hockey marked by poor defense and a last-place showing by Red Eye in the Snowboard Cross.

Seeing that the team finished eleventh overall with a total of 35 points, Red Eye replied: “White Eye is one of the greats, but all I can say is that I’ve been focused on going fast on straights for months. You can’t just tell me to slalom!”

In the end, the team had scored eleventh before and they took the results in stride. Red Eye made an early trip out of the Himarblelayas to acquaint themselves with the Raceforest track. Just a week and a half later, they’d find themselves near the front of the starting gate, watching the lights about to go out to start the Raceforest GP.

Leaping out the start with defending Racer Champion Speedy, Red Eye was always battling in the top two in the race, speeding down the racing line and looking for the overtake every turn.

Speedy chasing Red Eye at the Raceforest GP as Razzy pulls away.

As Red Eye recalled, during a chaotic three-racer battle with lapped racer Razzy: “Razzy and Speedy are world-class, but I could see them swerving back and forth trying to make a cheap pass around me and each other. You can’t risk losing your grip on a slow track like this, so I ignored them and kept to the plan.”

Whirling past Speedy after they bounced against a tight turn, Red Eye kept to the very consistency they cited and won their second gold with the fastest lap.

The bar was raised to the highest level in the Cat’s Eyes’ friendly rivalry, and yet Yellow Eye met it. After a beautiful five-racer overtake out of the conveyor belt sent them to third, Yellow Eye gained ground with every poor turn and bump made by others on the Momotorway to win that GP. Suddenly the Cat’s Eyes had 51 more points and 153 points total, eliminating ten teams from the Teams’ Championship with four more GPs to go.

Yellow Eye takes the lead from Clutter at the Momotorway GP.

The world truly changed for the Cat’s Eyes after those back-to-back golds. In a good way, according to Cyan Eye: Demand was overwhelming for watch parties held on whatever grounds were open around Felynia Coliseum. The first party was held during Red Eye’s Palette Park practice trials, and on many stands one saw two fans balanced on top of one another, all rooting for their captain on the Jumbotron.

In a bad way, according to Red Eye: the mood changed for them when they saw Speedy’s press conference before Palette Park. Asked repeatedly about facing Red Eye in the race, the Speeders captain shouted: “What do you want to know?! I don’t know how they trained to be this good and I don’t want to know how.”

After Red Eye’s fourth-to-last showing at that GP, Yellow Eye told us: “I still have huge respect for Speedy after that silver, but why did they say that? When we work as hard as we did, you’d think these greats would show us any respect.”

Perhaps the pressure got to Yellow Eye too, caught in the back half for most of Misty Mountain GP and ending in 13th. Just as the outside press focused on Red and Yellow Eye after Momotorway, they now hyped up the odds of Speedy or Hazy seizing the Racer’s Championship.

White Eye announced the day before practice that Red Eye would challenge Speedy at the Savage Speedway with doubters all around them. “At Team CCE, we’re prepared to show we’re the best,” said the coach.

Red Eye breaks away from the pack at the Savage Speedway GP.

The rest is history: Red Eye silenced the crowd with a lap 0.1 seconds faster than all others in the Qualifiers, followed by a pole position. Speedy could only watch on as Red Eye never looked back from an early challenge by Prim. The Cat’s Eye extended their lead every lap until they finished a full eight seconds ahead of the runner-up. Red Eye scored the first “purr-fect” 27-point weekend in Marbula One history and clinched the M1 Season Championship for the Cat’s Eyes that evening.

The Speeders fans trickled out of the stands with a whimper, and the other garages kept to themselves after pleasantries during the podium ceremony. But it didn’t matter for Felynia’s racers. Both of them and White Eye took a call from Blue Eye, who raved about the celebrations on Felyni streets: the sight and sound of fireworks above going into the night.

“They’ve been gone too long,” recalled Blue Eye. “I said, ‘you’ve got to come home and check this out.'”

The coda of the Cat’s Eyes’ Marbula One season was Yellow Eye’s tenth place finish at the Midnight Bay Circuit. The team didn’t capture first and second in the Racer’s Standings, not without trying; Yellow Eye just was too inconsistent navigating the circuit’s turns. But with the season over, one lapse was no longer worth putting off all the reasons to celebrate.

Using the “share of total points earned” measure, the Cat’s Eyes’ Marbula One season is the second most dominant season in JMR history (behind the Bumblebees’ Hubelino Tournament 2018 showing). Red Eye won more GPs than any other racer and scored nearly as many points in six races as the Savage Speeders did over one season of eight GPs. Yellow Eye placed third in the Racer Standings and led more laps in their career than all but 2 other racers. It’s the Cat’s Eyes alone who now look to form a Marbula One dynasty.

Before leaving Midnight Bay, Speedy was asked about losing the Racer’s Championship to Red Eye.

“There’s no doubt Red Eye is destined to be one of the greatest of all time, so congratulations to them,” said the Speeders captain. “I think back to what I said about them out of passion, and no champion deserves to be questioned that way. I want to apologize for that and hope we can compete as friends, not enemies.”

The Crazy Cat’s Eyes claim victory in the Marbula One Season 2 Team’s Championship.

Eight months after they parted for Sotsevsa, Red Eye and Yellow Eye flew back to Felynia to begin practice at the Coliseum. The sheer sight of what awaited them outside the airport: tens of thousands of Cat’s Eyes formed like a rainbow, gleaming under the desert sun. Red ribbons and streamers filled the air, lifted as if by rockets, their exhaust the yellow flares and their engine the sound of crowd din and horns. In the center of it all, there was a giant red banner unfurled for this crowd’s heroes: “DON’T STOP FE-LIEVING”.

Local reports were that Red Eye was overcome with emotion, then told the crowd: “Let me invite you to my training grounds, my second home. We’ll put on a show.”

Inset of a promotional poster from the Felynia High Council.
(Art credit: u/Louisly)

The same week that all 2021 Marble League teams were to attend the Qualifying Group draw at Felynia Coliseum, the Felynia High Council organized an exhibition Practice Race. Televised across Marblearth to exhibit the natural beauty and wildlife beyond the city, the race fielded one racer from every team present at Polaria last year. The track was a classic sand rally track on the outskirts of the Cat’s Dunes. Red Eye took the front row alongside Wispy, Razzy, Ocean, and Momomomo of Team Momo.

Perched on stands next to the starting gate, the Cat’s Eyes attendees erupted as Red Eye took the inside line and was in the top 8 after the opening turn. As their fans now expect, the new Racer Champion fell to the midpack to tenth after the first sector, but clawed up the ranks from there. Their rivals lost grip on the banked turns, took long detours, or even fell prey to the local beetles. A last-minute block from the Chocolatiers’ Bonbon meant Red Eye had to be content with fifth, still the best showing that day of any racer from the last Marbula One season.

Further local reports described Red Eye as aloof when rolling past Rapidly, Razzy, and other Marble League veterans. In contrast, the Cat’s Eyes captain conversed with Snowstorm, Bonbon, and especially Indie of the Indigo Stars. To the third-place finisher Momomomo, Red Eye was quoted: “Happy to go one-on-one out here next time.”

Red Eye, at the finish line to complete the Practice Race.

Looking for a final interview before this year’s Qualifiers, we were told Red Eye and Bullseye had an audience with Cleocatra themselves out on the dunes, while local media have Blue Eye and Yellow Eye booked up to the Marble League. We were able to talk with White Eye and Green Eye the day after the Coliseum’s grand opening and asked them about their newfound fame.

“It’s hard to believe, you know? Not just how the city feels about us now, but also thinking if our team could fall to the Host Curse,” said Green Eye. “I have to admit I’m on edge!”

“What I say, though, is that it’s not about what others expect of us. It’s that we now know what we’re each best at,” said White Eye. “Green Eye’s the perfect fit for the funnels and Blue Eye’s our high flyer. Nobody will beat Yellow on the track or Red on the circuit. Every day after practice, we tell ourselves that we can and will take gold in every event we see.”

In RetRollSpective, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes once wanted to be the jack of all trades, only to realize they are masters of speed and balance. They coordinated better than before in the 2020 Marble League, but it’s their Marbula One Season 2 domination that makes them the host team with the most momentum ever going into their main event. They have a good chance to win the 2021 Marble League, as long as they can perform better across all racing events. To the extent that they need it, best of luck to the Crazy Cat’s Eyes in the future. Keep on rolling!

Special thanks to Fouc for helping craft the lore for the Crazy Cat’s Eyes!


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