This week, I watched “The Hunger Games” with my 11 1/2-year-old daughter. Long-term, I’ll remember it as the first movie that the two of us watched together featuring people dying every few minutes (sigh), and as the movie that reminded me I need to introduce her to “The Truman Show.”
Over at least the next 10 days, or until Katniss Kershaw returns from the disabled list, I’ll think of it as the kill-or-be-killed symbolic backdrop for the 2014 season.
The numbers almost track — 24 “tributes” in “Hunger Games,” 30 Major League teams. Or, if you prefer, 24 tributes juxtaposed against 25 active players on the Dodgers’ regular-season roster, each just trying to survive in a cutthroat world that sometimes seems capriciously manipulated from outside forces.
The swirling national circus might not like the Dodgers, might see them as villains, but more often than not, they have nevertheless been impressed by them, crowning them 2014 favorites at least as much as any other team. For their part, the Dodgers seem ambivalent about how much they care about being liked, but they are determined to survive until the very end.
No, I suppose no one will confuse Los Angeles as MLB’s District 12, though I think outsiders sometimes underestimate the toll and poverty of 25 years without a title, a span of time in which about half the teams in the Majors have triumphed, including a few of the supposedly less fortunate. When the Marlins have more than one World Series ring since your last, when your top historical rivals can say the same, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy.
In any case, the gamemakers have rejiggered the competition. Celebrate the best in baseball, then impale with a fireball, this one striking in the teres major muscle. So OK, that’s how we’re gonna play it. No one gets out of here clean, not even the supposedly blessed. The Dodgers are going to battle and bleed like everyone else.
The savage season, these Hunger Games, resume in earnest at 5:05 p.m., when the Dodgers face San Diego in the first official 2014 game on U.S. soil. Be great, be strong, be resilient … and be on the fates’ good side.