To give you a summary of both the San Jose Sharks and Sisyphus to see why I’m even mentioning the two together:
1. The Myth of Sisyphus is basically a story about a Greek asshole named Sisyphus who made a living out of deceiving and manipulating gods and humans alike. Sisyphus was such a tool that one of his consorts killed their children rather than let Sisyphus use them as pawns. Long story short, he eventually dies having sufficiently pissed off Zeus to intervene personally in his post-life punishment; cursing him to an eternity of rolling a rock up a hill only to see it fall down every single time.
2. For the bulk of my childhood, the San Jose Sharks were the only professional sports team (sans a terrible stretch of Warrior basketball at the then-Compaq Center) in town. In that span, the Sharks have made the NHL postseason 17 times, with a streak of 10 straight appearances dating back to 2002-2003. They’ve always been a good team, with great players like Owen Nolan, Vinny Damphousse, Evgeni Nabokov, Patrick Marleau, Jumbo Joe Thornton, etc. But in 17 postseason appearances, the Sharks have never made it out of the Western Conference playoffs.
One of my first assignments in community college English class was to analyze Camus’ essay “The Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus was the champion of telling people “life doesn’t matter,” that living held no grand purpose and the search for answers or guidance would only bring frustration in the futility. It’s only natural Camus would break down Sisyphus’ myth with such zeal.
After killing the reader’s soul and optimism after 113+ pages, Camus’ basic assertion was this: despite the conflict of our natural desire to find reason and the absence of reason in our man-made world, the solution is not despair or suicide. The solution is a constant revolt against the emptiness of life’s ultimate futility.
In the essay’s last lines, Camus frames Sisyphus as a man who’s accepted his fate, yet revolts against the absurdity of it by continuing to roll the rock up the hill, finding some kind of mutated form of meaning in the futility of it all. The last lines of the essay go as thus:
“The struggle itself […] is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Being a Sharks fan is tough. The futility isn’t confined to the regular season, where fans of perpetually terrible teams can take solace in their loyalty and lack of bandwagon. The Sharks are a cunt hair from rolling over the hump, skating into the postseason with the President’s Cup newly placed in their cabinet, only to give away the entire series to the eventual Stanley Cup winners (fuck you 2009 Ducks). When you lack any kind of success, you expect failure as an everyday part of life. You become Sisyphus in all of his contentment in the easiest and most direct way possible. The Sharks…are a little different.
Imagine that it’s been a few years since you’ve had sex. If you had zero success with the opposite sex, you’d be sad but you’d also expect it. The constant stream of initial failure would become so routine, you’d get used to it. Continue rolling that boulder.
However, if you’ve managed to make it to first base for once, that contentment in futility disappears. The boulder isn’t moving. It might even stay on the hill this time. You might even taste the sweet accomplishment of second, or maybe third base. Without warning, the brakes pump, they no longer call, and you feel the pit of your stomach bottoming out as that boulder rolls down with a vengeance.
The Sharks always make it to first base, maybe even getting to third on a good year, but they’re still Stanley Cup virgins with the bluest of balls.
It takes dedication and indestructible loyalty to deal with the kind of edge failures that the Sharks deliver on an annual basis. The fans manage to get themselves up, put on their teal jerseys, yell their hearts out, let themselves believe that THIS YEAR WILL FINALLY BE THE FUCKING YEAR.
Then those business-class douchebags from LA, Anaheim, Vancouver, and Chicago will just swoop in and say “sorry bro” as they vulture their date with Lord Stanley.
Not to disrespect Buffalo or Cleveland fans, but it’s not that hard to continue trying in the face of consistent failure. Trust me as a long-suffering Warriors fan from the Cohen era. Once you expect failure as a constant, you compartmentalize and detach yourself from the loss by instinct.
But the gut-wrenching failure, the kind that shuts down a string of small encouragements, that’s the hardest thing to digest. To continue pushing when doomed hopes are raised with consistency, despite every effort to ground expectations in the face of history, that takes the kind of strength and audacity that Camus really wanted to convey.
The irony is that I disagree with Camus. I believe life contains reason and purpose if you want it to. I know that Sisyphus is a myth and that all curses and losing streaks eventually come to an end…only if one lives with the kind of strength and audacity that Camus champions.