The bidding war for tickets to last week’s premiere of The Hunger Games was beyond anything I have witnessed during my time in school (including Harry Potter).  One student even solicited my dorm email list with an offer to pay $20 and bake homemade cookies in exchange for a ticket to the midnight showing. In the midst of such fervor, I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon Saturday night to see what the hype was about.

I walked into the theater with low expectations, having neither read the books nor heard much about the series. Two hours and twenty minutes later I walked out having enjoyed a really good movie. I was most entertained by the actual Hunger Games competition where tributes (those participating in the competition) used strength, agility, and wit to take out competitors. Maybe it was the coffee I had drunk just before, but the action and suspense were exhilarating.

And the movie got me thinking. If I had to make a prediction, what current professional athletes would be most likely to win in a “Hunger Games” style competition? Surely, Lebron James’s brute force and speed could wreak havoc in the initial phase of the game, as the tributes race to the cornucopia (where they keep the weapons and supplies). Even with all the initial supplies, I don’t think Lebron would have the necessary endurance to be effective later in the game (We all know how well Lebron plays in the 4th quarter...).  What about a boxer? With superior training in hand-to-hand combat and endurance better than most, an athlete like Manny Pacquiao would be a force to be reckoned with.  Still, the NFL might ultimately be the best place to look for true athletic prowess. Running backs like Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew, receivers like Calvin Johnson, and linebackers like Ray Lewis have a deadly combination of strength, speed, and hand-eye coordination. Just the thought of confronting Troy Polamalu alone, in the wilderness, is enough to make me quiver. But there’s more to winning the Hunger Games than brute force.

After thinking about it some more, I began to look to the track world for potential champions. Usain Bolt is 6’5’’, pure muscle, and impossible to run away from. His speed would be sure to come in handy in both the life-or-death sprint to the cornucopia as well as open encounters later on in the game. David Oliver, down-right intimidating and built like a Chevy, would be another good choice. Even distance runners like Chris Solinsky would have a good shot at success. Who better than a former XC star to race across the trails and maneuver around trees?

And yet, as much as the Hunger Games is about being physically strong (which is why a shot putter like Adam Nelson would also be a threat), it is also about outlasting. Perhaps only a true endurance runner would have the mental strength to survive in these conditions for any extended period of time. However, in the end, I’d be most likely to put my money on a decathlete like Trey Hardee. Decathletes have it all: hand-eye coordination, speed, stamina, and pure strength. Hardee is the complete package. One can easily imagine being chased down by Hardee with a spear (javelin), swinging through trees, or even landing a right hook. It is hard to imagine anyone else in professional sports is more suited for this type of competition. He even looks a little bit like Cato.

And this is what makes track so great. We get to see the world’s greatest athletes competing in the purest sense—each always striving to push the human limits of speed, strength, and endurance to ensure that the odds will forever be in his or her favor. 

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