Wednesday 4 August 2010

Andrew Flintoff: 21st Century Schitzoid Man

'Two Andy Gorams.... There's only two Andy Gorams' sang the fans when the former Scotland goalie - and useful cricketer - was diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia. The Barmy Army may never have the chance to sing Andrew Flintoff's name again, but there are at least three versions of Freddie to consider now.

There is Flintoff the cricketer, who played like we all wanted to play, with heart and without fear, full-blooded and noble, uncomplicated. That is a loss worth marking, a hole hard to fill. There is Flintoff the commodity, frontman for Red Bull and Dubai. And somewhere in there is Flintoff the man, slightly more complex than portrayed, a character with a natural common touch, yet a fellow aware of his worth and willing to create and exploit his own iconography.

Injured and laid low, Flintoff can do little more with his cricketing life. Now it is all about his second life, his afterlife, and that has already begun to colour his reputation. A growing ambiguity towards him has been noticable in the press. The spin that now surrounds Flintoff has, like most spin, become counter-productive.

As Mike Selvey noted yesterday in a spiky column, announcements of Flintoff's injury travails are now routinely preceded by a story concerning one huge deal or another with a far-flung cricket team. On the radio this morning, Michael Vaughan, who shares Flintoff's management company, was selling the latest knock as 'a little setback - he'll just have to be more patient'.

The truth is that Flintoff is more likely not to play again than he is to become the nebulous freelance cricketer that his management company have modelled for him. Ironically, there would be a much greater weight of support behind Fred if they just came out and admitted it. We could understand his eagerness to have us drinking Red Bull more readily then. Instead, he looks as hapless and uncomfortable as Ian Botham did when me met that bloke who was going to make him the next James Bond and he was forced to parade around in a ludicrous striped blazer talking about Hollywood.

There is sadness for Flintoff the cricketer, resentment towards Flintoff the corporate construct. It's only his management that can't see it.

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