Last Night's Viewing: Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport, BBC1
The Fabulous Baker Brothers, Channel 4

 

The idea that sport is in any way a morally improving activity should really be insupportable by now, after years of match-fixing, dope scandals and football-star spit-roasts. But the notion that it is character-building still stubbornly clings on. Competition, from Dr Arnold onwards, has been believed to anneal the soul and tutor the spirit. If Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side of Sport is to be believed, though, we should be protecting our children from exposure to school games, just in case they're unlucky enough to show some talent at them. Flintoff – both a darling and a monster of the red-top back pages – was exploring the subject of depression in sport, partly because of his own experience of a slump in form and morale, and partly because of what happened to his friend Steve Harmison. And the telling thing was that it didn't look as if he'd had trouble at all finding representative cases. Even Vinnie Jones pitched up to confess that he'd thought seriously about walking into the woods with a shotgun.

The really intriguing question here was whether depressive personalities are more likely to become top-level sportsman, or whether top-level sport is exceptionally good at creating depressives. An anecdotal documentary like this – principally devoted to the exemplary confession (designed to kill stigma and promote debate) – wasn't really in a position to decisively answer that question. But it did suggest that at its highest levels sport is intrinsically damaging. In some ways, bipolarity becomes your job in a world where you can never guarantee that a crushing failure isn't just around the corner. You're either on top of the world or a loser, and the knowledge that even sporting triumph is only temporary must have a debilitating effect, too. A novelist who has never won the Booker can still be consoled by the thought that posterity might one day put things right. But they don't decide a century later that actually you won that all-important championship final.

The machismo of much sport – the premium it often places on putting on a front – only makes things worse. Flintoff himself recalled being advised to swagger on to a cricket pitch as if he owned it, a concealment of feelings that gets carried back into the dressing room. And newspapers, impatient with what can simply look like spoiled bad behaviour, pile on even more pressure. Flintoff went to interview Piers Morgan about this aspect of the problem, and got some free coaching in how to dodge a difficult delivery. After being asked about the morality of a tabloid-monstering Harmison had been given, an unapologetic Morgan effectively replied, "It was your fault. You were captain. You exposed him to our brutality." "I wasn't expecting him to turn the tables and throw it back at me," said Flintoff afterwards. He clearly hasn't been watching the Leveson Inquiry.

I'm in touch with my feminine side," said Heston Blumenthal in last night's How to Cook Like Heston, as he prepared to make scrambled eggs with the ladies of the local WI. I don't think The Fabulous Baker Brothers are, though. I think they're terrified of it, because they're comically at pains to stress just how blokey their cooking is. It's not just that they boast of "a murderous sense of rivalry" at the beginning of the programme and bellow that "this is baking for boys". Even the way they handle their ingredients is ostentatiously butch. They slam puff pastry down on to the table as if they're about to wrestle with it, hurl ingredients into the mix from across the room and spit on the very notion of precise measurement. "I think you'll find those have whup-ass written all over them," one of them said, unveiling his entry for the head-to-head "Pie War" that features in every episode. They were sausage rolls, essentially. Calm down, lads. If you carry on like this, you might end up seriously depressed.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power