In a more enlightened future, we will think it barbaric that a psychologically impaired nation was allowed to compete in a World Cup when it was quite clear it was wholly unfit to do so. Instead of being allowed to endure the build-up, see its players get on the plane, and participate in a football tournament like the more rational countries, the unhinged nation would be conditionally discharged, and spared the usual punishment.
Just a week ago, England stood on the threshold of two crunch World Cup qualifiers, with the consensus being that after years – decades – of madness, people were more realistic about its football team these days. It was everywhere, this new era of calm and managed expectation: in the newspapers, on the telly, in the pub. On the bus I heard a man say into his phone: "I actually now think getting to the round of 16 would be a good building block for the future, if we do it right."
Whether or not sense was being made was irrelevant – we were new people. Or rather, we were the same people, but we now knew what those people were: a middle-ranking football nation beginning to understand its place in a football world in which the sun once never set on our scope of influence. And all that.
And so to a reminder of The Week in Following England, which comes as a single-paragraph montage of highlight and lowlights: Roy Hodgson is too cautious and he's going to ruin everything for us. Andros Townsend?! Hurrah for cavalier Roy Hodgson! Andros Townsend MBE? Can we do it? Of course we can! Qualifying is the new winning the World Cup. Oh God, look at us, we're such fun to watch! Only a madman could deny that England believe in themselves again. Something very exciting was born here tonight, and though I'm still just sane enough not to put my finger on it, it smells like victory. Yup, we're finally out of those dark woods. Is there anyone in England who doesn't love and respect lovely Roy Hodgson? Shock as Roy Hodgson sparks race row. Which one of those little toerags leaked it to the Sun? Whoever doesn't publicly back him automatically qualifies as a suspect. Roy Hodgson furious that England's feelgood factor has been blown away.
In short, England was unwell, then we thought we were better, and now we are unwell again – quite possibly in an even more troubling way. Maybe the strain has mutated.
But no, in the search for the right analogy, you might better alight on the man who goes to the doctor thinking he's got lung cancer, is told that it's just a cough, and goes straight out to buy a packet of fags to celebrate. Or rather, the man who fears he has cirrhosis of the liver, spends the wait for the doctor's appointment making increasingly humble deals with God, is told that in fact it's an adverse reaction to some allergy medicine, and welcomes the news with a 36-hour bender.
Needless to say, none of us wishes to get any more bogged down in Hodgson's space monkey joke, it having already occupied far too much of our time this week. Whenever my mind is approaching a state of rest, back up it pops in all its maddening impenetrability – a huge and foreboding forest of sentences at which one feels compelled to keep hacking away, in the hope of freeing the princess of humour slumbering peacefully therein. For every one in an infinite number of monkeys who would write Hamlet, given a typewriter, there are infinite others bashing out abstruse gags like this, and the fact that any of the players could concentrate in the second half has sent my estimation of their mental strength several notches up. It would have been perfectly understandable had one or two of them simply left the pitch clutching their heads, then thrown themselves at Hodgson's feet and begged: "I MUST KNOW: WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY IT?"
As for where we're at now, anything I write will be whole microcycles out of date by the time I finish typing this sentence, let alone by the time you read it. Hodgson's journey from zero to hero to zero to hero could easily have gained a few more twists and turns, given the internet era's gift for telescoping psychological journeys that used to take months or years into a single 24 hours. The same thing happens in politics, where David Cameron or Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg can start a week widely held to be vulnerable and malfunctioning, only to end it being widely acclaimed as having survived a crisis that wouldn't have been classed as a blip only a decade or two ago.
History no longer repeats itself as farce: the two happen simultaneously – just different versions of the same story. But those who blame the media entirely might ask themselves whether their own daily click-rates do not betray a constant desire for something new – even if it's just to disagree violently with, or even if they know it in their hearts to be insignificant in the great scheme of things.
In fact, whether there is a great scheme of things at all is even a matter of debate, so addicted to short-termism is the age. There certainly hasn't been one in English international football for as long as many people can remember, and the mad ups and downs of weeks like this only draw more attention to that void.