clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Sisyphus Was A Jets Fan

New, comments

Sisyphus was a Jets fan. How else to explain his fate?

In all too brief summary, Sisyphus was a king of ancient Corinth. He betrayed one of Zeus’s secrets by revealing the whereabouts of Aegina, one of many, many victims of Zeus’ uncontrollable libido. Aegina had been spirited away by Zeus, and Sisyphus revealed her location to her father, the river god Asopus, in return for causing a spring to flow on the Corinthian acropolis.

As you can imagine, Zeus was less than thrilled by Sisyphus’ opportunistic turn of conscience, and he resolved to punish Sisyphus in a particularly cruel way. Zeus ordered Death to chain Sisyphus in Hades for all eternity. Sisyphus, being a rather clever lad, expressed curiosity as to how the chains worked. As Death began to demonstrate, Sisyphus turned the tables on him, trapping Death in his own chains. As you can imagine, this made rather a mess of things back in the world of the living. With Death tied up in his own living Hell, as it were, he could no longer claim his human prizes. Nobody died. Ares was not amused, as this made his favored form of entertainment, the battles of foolish mortals, rather pointless. Lots of maiming and dismembering, but nobody ever won or lost. An endless tie; one can see how this might have been a problem for Ares, the original sports fan. Ares, outraged at the endless ties making a mockery of the playoffs, for which no team now qualified, decided he had had enough and tackled Sisyphus, freed Death, and turned Sisyphus over to Death once again. Death, being no simpleton, made sure he did not allow Sisyphus access to any chains or other binding commitments.

As punishment for making a mockery of the gods, Sisyphus was made to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. The particularly maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubris, which basically means you think you’re better than Zeus, which given Zeus’ nature seems like a fairly low bar to clear. Zeus accordingly showed he was better than Sisyphus by a cruel abuse of his arbitrary power (which clearly demonstrated his moral superiority), enchanting the boulder into rolling away from Sisyphus just before he reached the top, which gave Sisyphus a pretty frustrating afterlife. Ah well, as least the rolling stone gathered no moss, though reports of it killing two birds have yet to be confirmed.

Camus, an absurd French dude and famous football fan (Camus was once asked by his friend Charles Poncet which he preferred, football or the theater; Camus replied, “Football, without hesitation”), eventually wrote a book about the crazy weird fate of Sisyphus, who, for all we know, is still attempting to be one with the Rolling Stones.

The book is in French, so it’s mostly incomprehensible, but its title is The Myth of Sisyphus. In this book Camus tries to make sense of the absurdity of life as it is embodied in some Corinthian king who probably never existed and in any event had, by all accounts, a strange affinity for large stones. I’ll let Camus take it from here, as I can’t really do justice to his absurd musings:

Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain. It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.

If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy rises in man’s heart: this is the rock’s victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, Oedipus at the outset obeys fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows, his tragedy begins. Yet at the same time, blind and desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: “Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well.” Sophocles’ Oedipus ... thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism.

So I didn’t really understand all that, especially the part when Sisyphus without warning changed his name to Oedipus, but the best I can figure is that this absurd dude Camus thinks the nonexistent dude Sisyphus became a hero in the moment he recognized the eternal futility of his life’s .... errr ... death’s work. Which, it seems to me, makes Sisyphus a Jets fan, for what can be more futile and absurd than rooting for a team that can be counted on to always make the wrong decisions?

And that, dear readers, is pretty cool. You and I and everyone else who in their benighted ignorance has yet to discover Gang Green Nation but nonetheless joins us in our devotion to the Jets, a team that fittingly began life as Titans, we are all tragic heroes, the protagonists of our own mythical worlds. We all labor along with nonexistent Corinthian kings and thumb our noses at the cruel football gods, who are not worthy of our devotion. We begin each season anew, knowing full well it will in all likelihood end badly. We know the giant rock will eventually roll back, crushing our spirits, yet we push forward anyway, heroes all, united with Sisyphus in the absurdist tragicomedy that is being a Jets fan. Macc may be back, another fruitless draft looms directly ahead, but you know what, the football gods can kiss my ummm... you know. It is absurd, and it is glorious