RetRollSpective – Hornets

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 bring attention to the Hornets, a team that made their debut in the 2019 Marble League Showdown and went inactive in the spring of 2021. Read on to see how this team stung the competition!

The official logo for the Hornets, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Hornets made their first bid for the Marble League championship during the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers. That said, the team is deeply rooted in other marble sports competitions, to the point where it has a fierce rivalry with another team: the Bumblebees. Their rivalry originated in the Bug Circuit, a regional tournament that began in 2011. The Hornets’ history as a team is slightly older: the team formed in 2010 in Buzzkill when Stinger brought its members together to race. Stinger and Wasp had known each other since they were young and came to know Vespa, Hive, and Yellowjacket through individual races. The team acquired its coach, Swarm, through Vespa’s parent, as they were a former athlete.

Each of the Hornets was such an important part of the whole of the team that without even one of them, the team would not have been successful in reaching the Marble League. Vespa, who was also chosen to compete in the first season of Marbula One, is known as the “Speed Queen” inside the Bug Marble community for their experience racing. As mentioned, Wasp had known Stinger for years before competing together, and as a result, was very loyal to them and the entire team. Their attitude may be aggressive at times, but it stemmed from their passion for marble sports and drive to never lose. Hive is an athlete that foiled Wasp perfectly: they were outgoing, funny, and friendly with other teams. They did not let poor results get to them, and they guided the team forward towards better results. Yellowjacket, the team’s only reserve, was the youngest member of the Hornets but never showed it through their energy and excellence competing with older marbles.

“I’m really lucky to be on such a hard-working team. We all push ourselves to be the best we can possibly be,” Stinger remarked.

Stinger was the glue that held the team together as its captain, but they also set an example for all marble athletes to follow. Apart from being one of the most decorated marble athletes, their self-control in times of pressure inspired Stinger’s teammates to remain hopeful and follow in their footsteps.

“We could not ask for a better captain,” declared Swarm. “In all honesty, I’m more of a mentor for the team. Stinger works so hard, and the team’s potential is so vast. I’m not afraid to push them to take it to the next level because I know they will do it. I have the best job in the world.”

The Hornets confronting a Bumblebee over their performance in a race. (Photo Credit: Spark11)

The rivalry between the Bumblebees and Hornets blossomed in 2011 when the Bumblebees hosted the Bug Circuit that year. The Hornets narrowly edged a victory over the hosts and clinched their first championship, with the Bumblebees in second and the Ladybugs in third. The next year, the Hornets finished third in the 2012 Bug Circuit hosted by the Centipedes, where the Ladybugs rose above them to win the tournament and the Scorpions followed in a comfortable margin. The latter team retired after that year, with pressure mounting from the Hornets. This pressure resulted in the Hornets finishing second the next year in the 2013 Bug Circuit, beating out the Moths (that year’s hosts) in third but falling to the Dragonflies in first.

The Bumblebees had not answered the Hornets’ call to a rivalry for three years, but 2014 was a different story. It was the first year ever that the Hornets did not make the podium, which allowed other teams to take the spotlight. The Bumblebees battled against the Cockroaches and the Grasshoppers in a snow-themed circuit, hosted by the Snails, to claim their first Bug Circuit title since the Hornets joined. As the Bumblebees rumbled with joy, the Hornets were abuzz with what next year would bring, for the team had been selected to host.

The Hornets brought the sting back to the Bumblebees and other Bug Circuit teams, dominating over the Ants and Tarantulas to win their own 2015 Bug Circuit—something they prevented the Bumblebees from doing in their own tournament. During one of the races, the Hornets’ famous “BZZZ” chant materialized when Stinger was doing poorly in the final third. Stinger managed to snatch the win, and the crowd, buzzing about Stinger’s impeccable comeback, created the chant we now recognize.

The Bumblebees answered the Hornets’ win by finishing third in the 2016 Bug Circuit, while the Hornets missed the podium for the second time in three years. The team redeemed itself in the 2017 Bug Circuit, winning its third championship in seven years. There seemed to be no question as to who was winning the rivalry.

The Hornets after winning a Bug Circuit. (Photo Credit: Spark11)

“No hard feelings towards the Bumblebees. I’m friends with Bea and Bumble,” said Hive. “Our rivalry is fun. It’s especially fun when you win most of the time.”

The Hornets, however, would not face off against the Bumblebees again in the Bug Circuit. In mid-2018, the Bumblebees announced that they were transferring to the 2018 Hubelino Tournament to replace Team Phoenix, who was retiring. The team was not the only team that had left the Bug Circuit: the Grasshoppers also left that season to train Grasshopper for the 2018 Sand Marble Rally, and the Tarantulas were in fact returning from helping Tarantula in the 2016 and 2017 Sand Marble Rallies. The Hornets remained in the 2018 Bug Circuit without someone to really compete against, and still finished in second overall—but felt something was missing.

“They were so distracted,” Swarm stated. “They did great, but not their best in 2018. They should have won so easily…and that’s when I realized that they could do so much more.”

“I have a lot of respect for the Bumblebees, and I knew they were going to excel in the Hubelino Tournament,” pledged Stinger. “They aren’t the best in speed events, but they play well to strategy. Their strategy to get into the Marble League from the Hubelino Tournament, for example, was ingenious.”

Upon learning that the 2019 Marble League Showdown would host a fan vote to determine the final two spots of the tournament, the Hornets applied. The team drew from their experiences in the Bug Circuit and their rivalry with the Bumblebees to rally support from the marblebase, and this, combined with a dominant social media presence, was more than enough to do so. The Hornets carried both rounds of the fan contest by two-thousand votes and were admitted as the eleventh spot in the Showdown.

The Hornets, much like the Green Ducks, earned a silver medal in their ML debut.

The team’s social media presence continued in the coming months, as the Hornets decided not to attend the 2019 Marble League itself and focus on training for the Showdown. The team trained with the Bumblebees for the first time ever, thanks to Hive’s networking and continued relations with the team, and also trained with other Showdown teams as the tournament drew closer. The Hornets arrived at the Seven Seas Stadium six weeks before the beginning of the Showdown and continued to train, right up until the night before the first event, the Sand Rally.

Vespa remained in the top four throughout the entire race, facing a challenge from Bea for second place until they briefly got stuck in the final quarter of the race. Bea was able to finish sixth and recover well, but Vespa kept steady, netting a silver medal and fifteen points towards advancing to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers.

The team earned another silver medal in Collision to rise to the top of the Showdown standings, five points ahead of the Rojo Rollers. The third event, Funnel Spinning, was the only event in which the Hornets did not make the podium and the only event where the Bumblebees placed higher than them—in fourth place to the Hornets in sixth. Nevertheless, the latter team already had enough points to advance to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers.

The Hornets finished the 2019 Marble League Showdown on the third step of the podium, with a bronze medal in Balancing. They ended in second place overall, with forty-eight points to their name. The Bumblebees also advanced to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers in seventh place.

The Hornets finished the 2019 Showdown overall on the second step of the podium.

When asked about the Bumblebees’ advancement, Vespa shrugged. “I think they deserved to make it in. They’re a good team, but they need a lot of work to prove themselves in a few months. As for us, we’re prepared to #BringTheSting in 2020, and we’re really looking forward to it!” Yellowjacket buzzed with excitement beside them.

As they prepared for the upcoming Qualifiers, the Hornets received an official letter from the JMRC inviting them to compete in the first season of Marbula One, an honor considering that the team has yet to compete in its first Marble League main tournament. The team accepted the invitation and would be represented by Vespa, “The Queen”, and Hive, “The Foil”, during the tournament.

The official promotional poster for the Hornets in Marbula One Season 1, designed by Jack Ironhide.

Buzzing Off

an addendum by EduGJ23 and Vector

Participating in a main JMR tournament for the first time ever, the Hornets wanted to consolidate themselves as the rookies to watch out for.

The team selected Vespa for their debut at the Savage Speedway, where they didn’t impress with a thirteenth place finish. A week later at the O’raceway, Hive had a solid performance with a result of ninth, scoring two points. Vespa couldn’t keep the momentum going in the third round, and missed the point zone by 0.02 seconds after starting from last.

Hive, who collected two points in their first outing, wanted to achieve more at home, the Hivedrive circuit. Their qualifying lap of 28 seconds flat was enough for thirteenth, which didn’t indicate an improvement over previous races.

The official track map for the Hivedrive GP. Graphic designed by Spex.

Things weren’t looking good after the start, either, as Hive fell down to last after a couple of hits in the first two turns. They did recover the lost ground after two laps, taking advantage of the distinctive feature of the track to stabilize near the tenth position for most of the race. But in the penultimate lap, the marble affectionately known as “The Foil” found an opportunity to gain more spots, which they swiftly acted upon, using the hive once again to finish in seventh. After the race, the home competitor said: “I’m happy to do such a solid race in front of our fans, this is a great incentive looking forward. And before anybody asks about it, no, that section of the track is not named after me.”

Unfortunately, the team would fail to earn another result in the top ten, earning no points during the rest of the season.

That said, the team as a whole was not deterred, and despite a close call in the Qualifiers, set their sights on a potentially prosperous 2020 Marble League. But how close was it? After a poor performance in Block Pushing, placing nineteenth, the pressure was all on Wasp into the fourth and final event, the 5 Meter Sprint. They ran in Heat 2, coming out in second after a photo finish against Indie, a difference of just four-thousandths of a second! The time of 5.292 secured an eighth overall position, and this slight edge allowed the Hornets to barely advance to the main tournament with 36 points, escaping the four-way tie for the two last spots by a single point. Without this margin, they would have missed out by medal countback.

The close finish that gave the Hornets a pass to Marble League 2020.

According to Coach Swarm, the group considered the favorable retrospect in Marble League competition over their local rivals, the Bumblebees, as extra motivation into their first full league.

But it was not to be. During the first half of the 2020 Marble League, the squad collected subpar finishes, with the best results after seven events being two finishes in seventh in the Halfpipe and Hurdles, respectively. Despite a difficult debut so far, they worked to find a turning point, and hopefully, it would come with the captain, Stinger, who was set to race in the triathlon.

In the first heat of the event, Stinger won without threats, already positioning themselves as a candidate for the surprise of the day. The semifinal, against the previous champions, arrived, and the Hornets’ captain didn’t feel intimidated by theoretically stronger competition, as a bold move over Rapidly in the transition from the race track to the water put them in the second transfer spot to the final. Facing a big opportunity to raise up the podium, the underdog had a great start, leading on the sand and the circuit-style track, but this time, the water wasn’t their strong suit unlike during the stages before. Orangin, Momo, and Foggy passed by, and the final results were the inverse of each racer’s positions before entering the pool.

Stinger enters the water a second after overtaking Rapidly.

“Sad to lose such a clear chance to get a medal, but looking at the positives, we hope to grow from here and keep proving we can compete against anybody at a high level,” said the exhausted captain at the media area. About their final run of 33.07 seconds, their slowest of the day, they added: “I gave my all today, and I didn’t stop despite running out of energy before crossing the finish line. We need to take risks to become serious contenders.”

Despite their high hopes and efforts, the team didn’t earn anything better in the second half, with only two top-eight results.

The Hornets not only failed to pick up a medal during the competition but also finished in dead last, despite only a late-season comeback from Mellow Yellow in the final event dropping them into the basement.

The Hornets finish last in the 2020 Marble League.

“Well, we tried, and that’s what matters, right?” began a bittersweet Vespa. “I just know we can come back stronger.”

Little did they know at the time, but this would be the penultimate event that the Hornets would ever compete in.

After the teams selected to take part in the second season of Marbula One were confirmed, the public relations department issued the following press release: “We can’t say we are surprised by today’s news, because we didn’t perform well enough to secure another invitation for M1. We are sorry for disappointing our fans in the latest tournaments, but now, we look forward to the future and focus on the work to come back better and stronger in the 2022 season.”

However, Stynth visited the team in the offseason.

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.”

from Stynth’s “Offseason Moments – ML2020 Part 1”
Stinger looks somberly towards the Hivedrive. (Art Credit: Betawolfs)

The following months brought further issues for the team both competitively and non-competitively. They weren’t considered to participate in the new Marble League Winter Special, debts were beginning to mount, and motivation was lacking. All that could be done at that point was to sell the Hornets brand and licensing off and hope that the new owners would be willing to allow them to still compete.

One team member decided to leave the sinking ship that was the Hornets entirely.

“I was against this whole ‘selling the team rights’ thing from day one,” said an unusually aggravated Hive. “That’s partly why I quit; I’ve also always wanted a firsthand experience of the bright lights of show business. I’m a comedian now. It’s just small gigs to start with, yeah, but I’ll work my way up soon enough.”

Meanwhile, the remaining members of the team had little success looking for new owners. Vespa elaborated on the team’s search.

“We were already feeling hopeless, but what made it worse was that nobody wanted us. There was some buzz about this cosmetics company buying us out, and they did approach us, but their demands were way too much. No matter what happens, we’ll always be the Hornets, not the Hornets Brought To You By L’Oróll.”

With nobody willing to buy them out, the Hornets turned to the one offer they initially refused to even consider.

The Bumblebees.

“Look, say what you will about the Hornets, they’re still marbles with lives and feelings. It’s tough to fall on hard times, heck, I started a youth marble training league that went bankrupt after half a year. I spoke to Queen, who also owns a small company designed to help us stay afloat, and they said they had actually thought about it themselves! That practically settled it,” finished Bumble. 

“And we at BNT Sports can exclusively confirm a surprising outcome to the Hornets’ ownership woes. Beesports Ltd., a company set up by Bumblebees coach Queen, was created initially with the sole intention of owning the Bees themselves. But now, in a possible effort to expand the company, they have officially bought the Hornets out. They are to be absolved from all of their debts, however, the Hornets members will all be retiring before the 2021 Qualifiers, and will begin working for the Bumblebees as staff members and trainers. And now onto the latest Bug Circuit news, where the Moths have officially…”

-A news broadcast from Buzznya News Today, a relatively large news channel, was the first to receive news of the Hornets acquisition.
(Art Credit: B.J.V. Dimafelix)

It was official: the Hornets, as we knew them, were no more. They were now working as trainers for the Bumblebees. Many people saw this as an exciting new chapter for the Bees, but not all fans were happy. A particularly vocal marble, who goes by the name of Thorax, a passionate fan who already worked for the team as the spokesmarble and social media manager, fundamental for marketing the Marble League entry bid campaign, was bitter after the Bumblebees’ takeover cost them a major opportunity. It’s not hard to understand that they always were against the idea of merging with their rivals.

“I was meant to be the manager of the Hornets,” Thorax lamented. “but of course because of the Bumblebees I only got to do the Sand Race. The Bumblebees ought to apologize for costing me my big chance.

Thorax would get a personal apology from team captain Bumble, plus a job offer as a member of the Bees’ backroom staff (which they promptly rejected). But with that minor incident out of the way, it was finally time to wrap up the Hornets’ story once and for all.

Writing for the Felynia Times,  journalist Crimson Eye said “The Hornets were never a team worthy of glory; they squandered every chance they had, they never made amends and they failed to even recognize their precise shortcomings. Yet, even though they made all the wrong decisions, and even though I should be laughing at this utterly unprepared team finally getting their comeuppance, I can’t help but feel bad for them. The Hornets, terrible as they were, gave it their all. You can tell by their performances that they really cared about marble racing. They had history, and frankly, I don’t blame them for trying to make it to the Marble League, but at the end of the day, it could be argued that the Hornets are a cautionary tale. Not every team with a long history in marble sports goes on to succeed in the Marble League and likewise, you can have no experience at all and win the whole thing.”

Despite all the buzz, there was one remaining event on the calendar. The team’s usual choice for sand rallies, Vespa, offered themselves to roll down in the 2021 Practice Race and send off the Hornets brand. In the end, their unimpressive result of twenty-fifth really didn’t matter, as we could observe Vespa having a friendly chat with Bumble after the race.

Another friendly moment between the two. (Photo Credit: Phoenix)

Later that day, Nectar and Beeline, the managers of the Bumblebees, were questioned about the implications of this acquisition to their group. They responded: “We have been following the reaction of the press and the fans regarding this news, and we honestly believe that some reporters were too harsh about the time of the Hornets’ members in JMR tournaments. Looking forward to the next seasons, we are sure they will be great assets for our organization and will help us to evolve.”

The remaining teammates quickly found their roles within the new structure. Thanks to their leadership skills, Stinger landed a spot in the management, preparing meetings and special events, and helping with all communications; Vespa mentors the Bees during training for racing events; Wasp is responsible for the fitness of the competitors, ensuring they’re always ready for each event; Yellowjacket and Swarm regularly follow youth leagues in the region, advising and scouting those who dream to become world-class athletes in the future.

The remaining athletes, now integrated into the Bumblebees’ staff, explore the Buzznya botanical park. (Photo Credit: Vector)

In RetRollSpective, the Hornets are a cautionary tale in the world of marble sports. After a very long reign as one of the Bug Circuit’s “Big Two”, they suddenly began to take a shortcut to success, coasting off of their social media presence to gather a following. After their initial success in the Showdown, they lost the plot, even more, scraping by the qualifiers and going on to end up dead last in the 2020 Marble League, both of which they barely trained for. The team began to become more humble, and look for ways to improve, but at the end of the day, it was too little too late. Best of luck to the Hornets in the future, keep on rolling!

Thank you to Spark11 for creating both the Hornets and the lore surrounding the team!

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