The good: Those that made it worthwhile
"Only if you have been in the deepest valley," said Richard Nixon, "can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain." Of nothing is this truer than sport. And so the heroes of this weekend were not so much the 2011 England Test team, to whom we were already grateful, but rather those whose struggles have made the last year so sweet. Ed Giddins, Mike Smith, Jimmy Ormond, Usman Afzaal, Richard Dawson; in their names have Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson been competing and excelling. Without Headingley 1997, Brisbane 2002 and many more, the recent triumphs, and certainly not the running through of India on Saturday's perfect morning, would have been quite the same.
The bad: England rugby union
As one English national team improves inexorably, to levels unseen in a generation, another stumbles around in the shadows of the superior predecessor; as if there is a finite sum of quality for English national teams. The improvement of the cricketers has been at the expense of rugby. Saturday's defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium, in which they failed to score a try, was one of the least imaginative performances of the Martin Johnson era. Not then exactly lacking in competition. "It feels like we could still be playing now and we wouldn't be scoring a try," Johnson said afterwards. His players were more intelligent in their criticism than they were in the game itself, Toby Flood pinning the performance as "shameful", and understandably so.
The odd: Burress outdoes Broadfoot
When Kirk Broadfoot was hospitalised by the explosion of an egg he microwaved, it felt like a peak for stupidly self-inflicted sportsmen's injuries. But anything the SPL can do, the NFL does better. Plaxico Burress of the New York Jets spoke this weekend about how he shot himself in the leg, for which he was jailed for two years. "I had a drink in my left hand," he revealed, "I'm just walking up the stairs. And, you know, it was dark. And I, you know, missed a step. That's when I felt my gun, started to slide. I went to grab it, to stop it from falling. Pow. I knew it had went off. I saw the fire, like, come through my jeans."