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'Mibsters' Compete at Akron Marble Tournament
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'Mibsters' Compete at Akron Marble Tournament

Games & Humor

'Mibsters' Compete at Akron Marble Tournament

'Mibsters' Compete at Akron Marble Tournament
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The Akron District Marbles Tournament is the oldest children's sporting event in America. The northeastern Ohio city has a long association with the game. The first mass-produced marbles were created there in 1884. Tournament director Michael Cohill runs down the rules of play.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, does a rooster in France say the same cock-a-doodle-do as a rooster in Japan? Wait, doesn't a French rooster say, `C'est moi'?

But first, this morning youngsters in Ohio are competing in the oldest children's sporting event in America, The Akron District Marbles Tournament.

(Soundbite of marbles rattling)

SIMON: They have sent along a contribution. The marble, as we know it, was created in Akron in 1884. We spoke to tournament director Michael Cohill earlier, and he explained the tournament game. It's called ringer.

Mr. MICHAEL COHILL (Director, The Akron District Marbles Tournament): There's a large ring, 10 feet in diameter. You put 13 marbles in the center in the shape of an X. And the object is the first player to knock out a majority or seven of those marbles to win the game.

SIMON: Now you've been kind enough to send us a whole bag of marbles. These are beauties, on top of everything else. What are they made out of?

Mr. COHILL: They're all glass and they're made in Marietta.

SIMON: Marietta, Ohio, or Georgia?

Mr. COHILL: Marietta, Ohio. And they're mostly, like, cat's eyes.

SIMON: Glass with kind of some coloration suspended in clear glass.

Mr. COHILL: Yes.

SIMON: Mr. Cohill, you also sent us a bag of black marbles.

Mr. COHILL: The black marbles...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. COHILL: ...are the tournament marbles. The shooter marbles are different. The target marbles are all the same.

SIMON: Oh, OK. So the black ones are the target marbles. I see.

Mr. COHILL: Yeah.

SIMON: Were marbles the first mass-produced toy in history?

Mr. COHILL: Yes. And actually, they were made out of clay at that time. That was back in 1884. And for the very first time in history, all children could afford to buy a toy.

SIMON: Now this Akron tournament, I gather, has been going since 1923. Is that correct?

Mr. COHILL: Well, not continuously. It died out in the 1970s. And we brought it back in 1991. It has a lot to do with the history of our city. And there were 32 marble factories in the greater Akron area.

SIMON: Let me ask you about a couple of terms, what seem to be marble vocabulary. OK...

Mr. COHILL: Yeah.

SIMON: Knuckling down is when you rest your knuckles on the ground when shooting?

Mr. COHILL: You must have one knuckle on the ground at all times when you're shooting.

SIMON: Shooting is holding the shooter between the thumb and the first finger, and then...

(Soundbite of marble hitting a surface)

SIMON: ...releasing it like that, right?

Mr. COHILL: Just like that.

(Soundbite of marble hitting a surface)

SIMON: Lofting?

Mr. COHILL: Only a very advanced player can do this. And you're shooting the marble into the air, it arches up over the ring, and lands on top of the target marble. The shooter marble spins and it comes to a stop at the point where it came in contact with the target marble.

SIMON: I mean, that sounds like the marble equivalent of a hole in one.

Mr. COHILL: Oh, it is.

SIMON: Wow. What's the prize that the youngsters will win?

Mr. COHILL: A trip to Disney World.

SIMON: That's a good prize.

Mr. COHILL: They get to take with them an adult.

SIMON: Oh, all right. Maybe that's a drawback.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, nice talking to you, Mr. Cohill.

Mr. COHILL: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Michael Cohill director of The Akron District Marbles Tournament, the oldest children's sporting event in America. Good luck to all you mibsters--that's marble talk for `kids'--out there.

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