The shredding of ambition is painful enough, as a spectacle and an experience. To unravel the last semblance of dignity leaves a more lasting bruise, and all but two England players escaped the fate on the third and final day of the fifth Test as Australia completed only the third whitewash in the history of the Ashes.
With England's three best batsmen, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, gone for a miserable aggregate of 57 and the sun still stinging the pink skin of the Barmy Army, those that followed did so mostly with resignation - except Michael Carberry, fighting for his place, and Ben Stokes, surely assured of his after an excellent series.
The final entry in the ledger of this second-leg of the 10-Test Ashes marathon was always going to resemble the worst school report: victory for Australia by 281 runs with more than two days left unused.
Ryan Harris, who cleaned up the tail and finished with five wickets, summed it up for his teammates after they had enjoyed their team song in centre-pitch at the SCG: "Five-nil. How about. Far out. How about that? Three days? We didn't expect that, but we're going to enjoy this, I tell you. I'm a bit sore, but I'll do anything for this team."
So Cook, again executed without ceremony - this time for seven, fishing at Mitchell Johnson - joins JWHT Douglas and Andrew Flintoff as England captains who have surrendered a series by losing five consecutive Tests to Australia. Douglas drowned at sea; Flintoff might have done - and Cook floundered on dry land.
The original Captain Cook had a harder time finding the east coast of Australia than Alastair did locating the ball with the edge of his timorous bat, gone for seven, to be followed quickly by his equally shattered lieutenant Bell, and the man Michael Vaughan believes should have the vice-captaincy, the edgy Pietersen.
Carberry top-scored with 43 from 63 balls, but the senior batsmen around him stayed barely long enough to be ritually lampooned by their tormentors or the unforgiving Channel 9 commentators. And the cruel judgments were justified. England were awful, even in the face of more magnificent bowling. Resistance was largely ceremonial, an obligation more than a serious commitment to a lost cause.
From the start of play, when Australia resumed at 140-4 (batting out for a lead of 448, the admirable Chris Rogers registering his second century of the series, his third in total, all against England), until the gory end at 4.24pm, Australia's batsman toyed with England's bowlers and their bowlers did likewise with the England batsman. Victory could not have been more comprehensive.
Scott Borthwick did twirl enthusiastically for three wickets near the end of the Australian innings, and Boyd Rankin, taller than he is dangerous, bowled marginally better after a hobbling introduction, but his first wicket in Test cricket, that of Peter Siddle, the last of the Australian innings, might also be his only one in an England shirt.
There was a passage of play just before tea, with Carberry and Gary Ballance in harness, when England scored at 4.2 runs an over.
It was a desperate, sweating, vaguely noble fling that ignored all cares for the schedule - because that had long been ripped up; cynics say six weeks ago. But what point was there in playing safely before the upcoming interval?
This Test match, England's last stab at redemption, had pretty much been decided on the previous day, when their tired bowlers flogged themselves into impotence against obdurate, professional opponents. The only self-worth the crease incumbents on Bloody Sunday could aspire to was in a futile flourish.
However, when Carberry handed over his wicket at the first time of asking after tea there was no escaping the collective mindset of this bewildered team.
Enter Ben Stokes: the antithesis of surrender. He owned the only English hundred of the entire debacle, a six-wicket haul and plenty of swagger. He'd removed Johnson earlier, and, bat in hand, now engaged battle enthusiastically with the left-arm terror.
Ballance could do little about one from Johnson that kept a little low, a meaningless inconvenience under the circumstances. The double strike took Johnson to 37 wickets for the series.
He strove with rising venom for the extra three from the five wickets available to finish with a rounded 40, but Nathan Lyon, who'd bowled as well here on this turning wicket as he had on those less responsive in the previous four Tests, made that tougher for his teammate when he dislodged Jonny Bairstow for a duck.
The Yorkshireman retreated to contemplate a frustrating apprenticeship as Matt Prior's putative successor - and Scott Borthwick, another edging into the picture, followed him after a one-shot flourish for four, caught brilliantly by Michael Clarke at slip.
In a quarter of an hour, England had lost four wickets in 17 balls. At 7-95, the speed of the collapse was bewildering. Australian thoughts of having to fall back on the extra half hour if needed now retreating rapidly.
Then Stokes took 20 off a Lyon over, and the crowd rose to him, recognising a fighter - but they were glad to see the back of him for 32, bowled by the indefatigable Ryan Harris, a bowler operating on one good leg and a heart the size of Uluru. He has epitomised the spirit in this team, old with an average age of 31 but fresh in ambition and effort.
Stuart Broad briefly thrashed, his stumps inevitably flattened, and poor Rankin could do no more than enter cricket history by spooning to slip, where Clarke stretched his hurting back to haul down the final catch of a series possibly more one-sided than that endured by Flintoff's England four years ago.
Since Clarke's team sealed the return of the Ashes in Perth, they have kept one eye on their next challenge, away to South Africa. England have a period of introspection to look forward to. Change is coming, probably more quickly than some realise.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk