THE NEWSPAPERS’ favoured word was “heartbreak”. After two hours of football against Italy on July 11th, the country’s football team yet again failed to win a tournament, having at last got to a final. To make matters worse, it lost—again—in a penalty shoot-out, shredding the nerves and dashing the hopes of its fans. The players who missed penalties suffered sickening abuse online.
The reactions seem excessive. After all, the English pride themselves on their down-to-earth common sense. Yet they are prone to occasional bouts of a kind of delirium, when a fractious nation comes together, and it seems there is only one topic of conversation, from greasy-spoon eateries to Michelin-starred restaurants. It is striking how often in modern times these episodes have involved two institutions that, in the grand scheme of things, are rather trivial: the royal family, a constitutional monarchy that has transformed itself into a reality-television soap opera; and football, a game.