But as Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia (BBC1, Mon, 9pm) showed, we never know the full story. At first glance, Preston-born Flintoff’s story seems like one long gold-brick paved path – cricket prodigy, international sports star, well-loved larrikin, TV presenter.
But as Flintoff said, there is Freddie, the public face, all banter and bravado, and then there is Andrew, who has struggled with an eating disorder since he first broke into the England set-up as a young man and was slammed by the press for carrying a bit of extra lumber.
The programme seemed like Flintoff’s first real attempt to understand what he was going through, and in meeting other men who had struggled with eating disorders, it forced him to re-evaluate his attitude to food, weight and exercise.
Throughout, he insists he has it under control, although you never quite believe him.
What you do believe is the bravery he reveals in admitting the problem and then actually talking about it.
As Aidan, one the men he speaks to, says: “The strength is telling people, the strength is being able to have a conversation.”
By the end, you feel Flintoff – this alpha male, this English hero – has made a journey to becoming a more rounded figure. And in the process probably helped more men to think about themselves, their vulnerabilities, their problems than he ever did on a cricket field.
It would have been easy for him to keep this hidden – he had done so successfully for 20 years –but you get the impression that he likes doing the difficult thing. He has started a conversation all men should take part in.