An Apology to the Town That I Turned into 'The Hunger Games'

A Letter of Apology from the Offices of Daniel "Chocolate Funk" O'Brien

Dear Fine People of Hazleton Township, Pennsylvania,

It is from the bottom of my heart and at the request of the West Hazleton Superior Court that I apologize to you all for what transpired last Saturday at the Hazleton Youth Center. I wish I could apologize to each and every one of you individually, but the document that the court sent over didn't say that I had to, so I won't. Most of you know exactly what went down at the Hazleton Youth Center last Saturday, but for those of you who don't, let me put it plainly: I absolutely tried to Hunger Games the hell out of your town and, specifically, your children.
This little guy is crazy good with a tomahawk.

In case you're unfamiliar with the The Hunger Games (what, have you been living under a rock? Under a rock in District 13!? Haha, good joke), I'll explain. The Hunger Games is a wildly popular book series (and soon to be wildly popular film series) about a war-ravaged, totalitarian version of future America (renamed "Panem"). Panem is divided into a series of districts and, every year, the oppressive government forces two children from each district to compete to the death in a vicious battle royale while the rest of the world watches (it's sort of like ... well, Battle Royale). Twenty-four children enter. One child leaves. It's a terrific, fun story with good messages for children ("Don't trust the government" and "War is shitty"), and I'm really sorry that I tried to stage my own Hunger Games in the Hazleton Youth Center last Saturday.

I should start by saying that no children died in my reenactment. I should amend that: A ton of children died, more than the amount that died in the books, but I don't really think I should be blamed for that. I don't want to insult your intelligence or waste your time (or mine) explaining why I don't think I should be blamed, so we'll just move on.

Apparently I didn't endear myself to this wonderful community via my comprehensive endurance test/death match with somewhere between 26 and 38 children (it is to my eternal regret that I didn't keep better track of my "inventory." That's on me). According to our (you'll agree) antiquated legal system, that makes me what the great state of Pennsylvania is calling "An Enemy of Humanity," a branding that will never be dropped (save for in the minds of future thinkers, who will no doubt view me as a genius visionary, like a well-toned Martin Luther King, or a less shitty Gandhi).
"Tell us again, Dad! Tell us of the brave man who was like Marcus Aurelius, but tougher and with a bigger dick. Tell us about Daniel."

To the parents of the children who are "no longer with us," and especially to the parents of the children who are just straight up dead now, I understand why you're upset, and I imagine that no amount of apologies or "Get over it"s from me will fill the void left by your son, daughter or both, so I'm not even going to try. That would be disrespectful to the memory of your children, not to mention a tremendous misuse of my time, which could be better spent on meditation, self-reflection and breaking out of prison. All I can say is that by watching your children in their last moments on earth, I've gained great insight into their hearts and souls -- the kind of insight that can only be developed when one watches the light extinguish from someone else's eyes -- and you'll all be happy to know that, at the end of the day, your children just didn't want it bad enough. Otherwise they would've won. Obviously.
You should know that he was never brave, not for a second.

To the surprised weekend janitor who discovered me, the children and the complicated and -- if we could all just step back and get real for a second -- objectively impressive maze/deathtrap that I built, I'm very sorry that we ruined your day, and I'm moderately sorry for threatening to send you and "your whole stupid family back to China in body bags." It was wrong of me to assume that you were from China, when all evidence clearly suggested that you were from right here in America. (I would like to say that it was wrong of me to assume your whole family is stupid, but I've so far seen no compelling evidence to the contrary; that's on you to prove me wrong.)

To the police officers who Tased me into unconsciousness before letting me finish my thought: I was going to say "Suck it." We all would've felt unsatisfied if I didn't get a chance to let that out.

To the townsfolk who lost not a single child in my Hunger Games, I am frankly shocked at your outrage. You didn't even have a dog in this race (not including, of course, the people whose dogs I stole, injected with rabies and repurposed as live "wild card" obstacles to be released in the heat of battle), so it's unclear why you joined the justifiably angry parents of missing children who called for my unprecedented National Ban. Maybe you were jealous that your children weren't chosen. Perhaps you're reading their lack of inclusion as an insult, and let me be the first to say that, yes, it very much is. Still, you shouldn't be angry with me just because your children never yearned for victory, or were too fast for me to catch. Who's the real monster here? Maybe take a look in the mirror the next time you think about signing a petition demanding the permanent deportation of a naturally born American citizen. Maybe do that.
Did I endanger your kids? Or did your pervasive shittiness force me to endanger them? Think about it.

It's possible that you're mad because the Hunger Games that I set up aren't exactly like the games in the book/movie. Maybe your problem is that I wasn't true enough to the story. I can respect that. But, if you'll grant me the opportunity, I'd like to explain why my Hunger Games differed slightly from the games with which you are familiar. I'm just trying to get us on common ground here.

In the Movie:

Representatives of every district in Panem are chosen to fight to the death, and the districts are mostly fine with it, so the whole thing is done in public while the world watches.

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

I didn't think any of you would be fine with this, so I did it quietly when no one was looking. That belief is still just as true today as it was last Thursday when I rounded up your kids in my van.

In the Movie:

Time is set aside so the selected children can train with previous Hunger Games winners. Here, they learn about strategy and develop little tips and tricks that can really save them in the games.

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

An hour before the games started, I forced the children to sit in a dark room while listening to House of Pain's "Jump Around" on loop. This was the only "training" that went on the entire weekend, and while modern professionals are at best skeptical, I believe that history will vindicate this practice and that this training will be utilized hundreds of years from now when, God willing, my Hunger Games will still be going on, all over the world.

In the Movie:

Before the games, the children (many of them from very poor districts) are cleaned, pampered and fed only the richest and most delicious food.

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

What am I, made of money? Get outta here.

In the Movie:

The games go on until one tribute is left; sometimes this takes weeks or months!

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

Leonard the janitor came in and interrupted us after only, like, nine hours. A weekend janitor, for cryin' out loud.
Ugh. Go back to Japan, Leonard. Or whatever! Shut up.

In the Movie:

The people of Panem tolerate the games because the oppressive ruling government is so powerful that it's convinced the people that it cannot be stopped. The games are a demonstration of the government's true power: "We are so powerful, we can make your children kill each other for entertainment and make you watch. All hail the Capitol."

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

I don't have the strength of a government backing me, but I have a van and am very fast, which makes me sort of unstoppable on a local level.

In the Movie:

The games are televised, and sponsors are permitted to contribute gifts (food, water, medicine, weapons) to the young contestants to ensure victory.

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

I forgot that happened in the book until just this minute.

In the Movie:

The events were called "The Hunger Games."

Last Weekend at the Youth Center:

I called mine "Daniel O'Brien's Suicide Blitz Bonanza." I stand by that title. If these games don't pick up steam next year and we have to cancel, I will use that title for the blues album I've been tinkering with on the side.

An album of love songs.

Mostly, I wanted to put my own unique spin on the Hunger Games as you know them. Part of being an innovator means taking someone else's idea and changing it just enough to make it seem like yours (see: The Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale). A different name, an intriguing location, a bear trap, hobbling the children who sassed me or otherwise looked like they might sass me -- these are just some of the new twists that I put on the familiar Hunger Games. Were all of my new ideas great? I'm not going to lie to you: yes.

There are going to be a lot of questions concerning whether or not I learned a lesson in all of this. I'd like to assure everyone that, in fact, I have not.

Daniel O'Brien is's senior writer (ladies) and is legitimately stoked for the Hunger Games movie (ladies again ... and teen girls, I guess).

Check out more from Dan in 5 Great Book Ideas 'The Man' Is Too Scared to Publish and My Brief Time as Encyclopedia Brown's Partner.

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