If I were better read I would know the story from classical literature of the man condemned to a life of eternal misery, brought on by offending the Gods, but who does not understand what he did wrong and whether he can ever escape.
I was thinking about this during the first half of the Coventry game.
The weather was wet and miserable, so was the crowd, and so was the football. It was like watching some lethargic rodents on a wheel, slowly going through the motions without achieving anything. And we had paid to watch!
“Have Sunderland ever been worse than this” someone asked on one of the podcasts recently. No. No, we really haven’t. This is the very worst - so bad I have started looking at how many points we need to stay up.
Where to start? Well, in the 32nd minute we pulled everyone back to defend a Coventry corner. Why? We were already struggling to keep possession. There is no surer way of losing the ball than to have all your players in the 18-yard box for an opposition corner.
As soon as the ball is cleared, it’s pinged straight back in. This is obviously a managerial direction – are we really so fragile that we have to defend first half corners like we’re 1-0 up in the last five minutes of a cup final?
The midfield had a collective breakdown on Saturday, too. Dobson was terrible. Maguire should have been off at half-time. Power and McGeady were largely anonymous. Only Leadbitter made a positive contribution, in my view, but he is never going to be creative.
Our best players, Hume and O’Nien, were stuck at full back and rarely able to use their pace and enthusiasm to make something happen.
Most of the discussion during the game was also on an eternal theme – is Will Grigg useless, or is everyone around him useless? I don’t know. At times, he seemed quite engaged and he clearly doesn’t get good service, but nor does he get himself into good positions. The only reasons to keep him are hope that he will suddenly come good... and the fact that no-one will buy him.
Still, as an infrequent visitor to the Stadium it was good to be home and to share the pain. The eternal misery is worse when you get it second hand from Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett.
Can it get worse? Yes. Will it get worse? That depends on Phil Parkinson.
If he really has a CV to die for, as our owners have claimed, then he should be able to keep us afloat till January and then let his League One know-how provide a recruitment boost that gets us into the play-offs.
At the moment, though, we are drifting downwards, like the last leaves of autumn: a sad reminder of better days, fulfilling no function. And our manager doesn’t appear to have any answers.