M.M. Owen:

This writer – this intense thinker who perceived that everything was Sisyphean, who proclaimed that the only way to live was to revolt relentlessly against meaninglessness – loved a mere game. Loved it with as much intensity and consistency as he loved anything. Why?

Consider this: what could be more absurd than 22 people chasing a sphere of inflated leather around a rectangle of grass for 90 minutes, and believing that the amount of times said sphere crosses a couple of painted lines is a matter of the most profound importance? In any sort of rational analysis, football is fundamentally ridiculous. A flurry of imaginary meaning.

But in the absurdist analysis, human striving of any sort is fundamentally ridiculous, and all meaning is at bottom imaginary. Zoom out until yours is the long view of the cosmos, and there is no essential difference between chasing a football and chasing a career, or a first home, or the eradication of racial injustice, or your soulmate. All of our huffing and puffing will exhaust itself and be forgotten, in time. To find meaning anywhere, Camus thought, required approaching life with more than cold reason. It required filtering reality through different states of being.

This seems unnecessarily cerebral to me. Owen makes many interesting points about why “a mere game” can have such a hold on our attention and energy, but he never mentions the simplest one: it’s fun. Fun is too banal a concept for analysis, I suppose. Even our pets intuitively understand fun. If my cat could talk, I’m sure he’d say that it’s just plain fun for him to jump up, skitter across the garage floor, and start batting a pebble around for a few seconds. Writers and thinkers tend to be dreadfully serious, which means they dare not risk looking frivolous by suggesting that some things simply are as they appear; they stand on their own merit without any need for theoretical scaffolding. Games are meaningful in a different way than careers and relationships; they’re not all competing in a zero-sum fashion for the same goal.