Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

Super Bowl and Suicide

America's leading football families are marred by suicides

In 2010, 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 2010 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."

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Brees 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 the year before her son got his Super Bowl ring 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 retain 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 and 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 2010 losing Super Bowl quarterback -- and qurterback of the 2013 favored team, Denver -- Peyton Manning to his parents.

ESPN featured a special entitled "The Book of Manning," about Peyton's father -- Archie Manning -- an All American and All Pro quaterbarack himself (who also lives in New Orleans and has bonded with Brees).  Archie displayed incredible family values and engagement with his three sons (another of whom, Eli Manning, has won two Super Bowls).  Especially memorable is his line: "People ask me how to raise a professional quarterback.  No, no, no, no.  You raise children."

What a matchless, exceptional, privileged family! Except that "The Book of Manning" details how Archie's own father -- a distant, unconfortable man -- killed himself with a shotgun when Archie was home from college the summer following his sophomore year.

No one escapes this world without some misery and pain.

Order Stanton's new book, with Ilse Thompson, Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program.

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P.S.  After watching "The Book of Manning," it's hard to believe you could root against Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.  But here's one more story.  The quarterback for Seattle, Russell Wilson, has overcome quite a bit himself.  Wilson attended a camp run by the Mannings for young players, and was assigned to Peyton: "I was struck by how much care he showed for the kids - and what a perfectionist he was. I try to use that." Years later, Wilson was in Denver for a pre-draft visit.  Figuring Manning had seen hundreds of kids and thousands of people since they met, Wilson went up to introduce himself to Manning. Manning interrupted him, "Don't I know you?"

What can you say?

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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