The most prominent and successful family lines in American sports are marred by suicide.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, February 8, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Super Bowl and Suicide

My Super Bowl story (and betting pick) was off a notch. I featured the Manning family and Peyton, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, who were bested by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Brees' outstanding performance in the Super Bowl speaks for itself - as does his entire season. Especially as his success marked his return from a bad shoulder injury that was thought to be career-ending.

Beyond this, Brees and his wife have engaged themselves in New Orleans in a truly remarkable way. Most athletes - or people who make salaries like Brees - donate to help people in cities. They don't actually move into and become a part of the cities, like Brees and his wife have. A 2010 Sports Illustrated profile called Brees "an athlete as adored and appreciated as any in an American city today."

The BreesesBrees is also deeply religious. He may have gotten his values from his mother, Mina Brees. A prominent Austin attorney, widely known and well-liked, photos reveal her at 59 to be a beautiful woman. She was visiting another son in Colorado last August, when she committed suicide. A third son, also a Texas lawyer who had (like Drew) been a star quarterback in college, announced her death.

Brees' parents divorced when he was young. Mina Brees went on to become president of the Austin Bar Association, which gave her an award in 2005 for legal ethics and professionalism. But she ran into trouble last year when she sent out notices to prominent restaurants that their names had expired - and that a company she owned would charge them a hefty fee to regain the rights to their names. Just prior to her suicide, the Texas Attorney General had subpoenaed her records.

When his mother ran for a judgeship (she lost narrowly to a Republican incumbent), Drew demanded that she remove his name from her campaign ads and materials. He said their relationship was "nonexistent," dating back to his refusal when he graduated college to hire her to represent him in his professional sports negotiations.

This much was known. What remains beneath the surface is a mystery. Sometimes, parents are estranged from a prominent child. Often, the child achieved success after leaving a family behind - a mother or father who lived completely different lifestyles, a world apart from their child. Perhaps they were even an embarrassment.

But Mina Brees was prominent, successful, popular in her own right.

Where, how did this relationship go wrong? It stands in such stark contrast, not only to Brees' monumental success, but to the family ties that bind losing Super Bowl quarterback Manning to his parents.

Except that Peyton's father, Archie Manning, who was an All-American and pro quarterback and also lives in New Orleans, and who reached out to Brees and his wife when they moved to the city, found his father after he killed himself with a shotgun following Archie's sophomore year in college.