Yesterday evening, just as we were all putting our heads between our knees and shouting “brace, brace” in anticipation of watching Colin Murray and Mark Lawrenson on the Match of the Day sofa, news broke that John Terry had finally decided that enough was enough, and retired from international football.
Missionaries who'd spent the last five years reading passages to undiscovered tribes were stunned at the news, astronauts returning from a three-orbit tour of the international space station gasped in shock, and a man pulled out of a 24-month coma this morning was sent straight back into his slumber, his still fragile synapses unable to withstand the sheer pounding severity of this atom-bomb of news.
The rest of us though, with one eye on the calendar of his FA trial, ranked our surprise on a similar level to that little jolt of “oh” you feel as you accidentally try and take an extra step when you get to the bottom of the stairs.
With mere moments to go until his FA trial for allegedly racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand, Terry's decision looks as if it is to take the plunge before the diving board is ripped from under him.
If he is indeed found guilty, as well as the pittance fine he'll be expected to pay and the few games he'll miss, the FA's most dramatic punishment would have been to banish him into the international wilderness. They've now been denied that power; like the disobedient child at the dinner table who's trying to claim he didn't even want the ice cream you're threatening to deprive him of.
In hundreds of years to come, historians will dedicate entire sections of museums on Mars to John Terry. In what will no doubt be taught to school kids as the bizarrely entertaining, but morally deficient “Why-Always-Me Era” of football, there'll be a giant bronze statue of him at the entrance. His face will be on the brochure, the souvenir shop will sell John Terry space pencils, John Terry badges, and you'll be able to pose, in full kit, with John Terry and the Champions League trophy other people won for him.
That's because, rightly or wrongly, the quintessential image of a footballer in the 21st century will be of a man with more money than sense, a man who lives his life following his temptations over his talents, living the lifestyle of pilots, movie stars and investment bankers, with all the maturity and wherewithal of a troubled teenager. Bollinger for breakfast, Pot Noodle for tea, buying a new house because it's easier than learning how to make his bed.
The bubble those at the top end of the game now live in is so detached from reality, that their only other viable career option would be covering themselves in clown make-up and terrorising the people of Gotham City. John Terry could have become synonymous with defending, or leadership, or winning stuff, but instead he'll always be remembered as that bloke who said and did some incredibly unsavoury things with his fellow professionals and their better halves.
Bobby Robson once remarked of his transfer policy, “don't just buy good players, buy good people”, and if the FA and the England fan base at large are going to continue to take the country's captaincy so seriously, then they need to make sure it never ends up in the charge of someone morally divisive again. Best of luck with that, chaps.