Updated Feb 3, 2010 2:48 PM ET
MIAMI GARDENS , Fla.
Only an occasion as resolutely absurdist as Super Bowl Media Day would cause you to wade into a deep sea of reporters and cameramen to ask a man about the suicide of his mother.
It's my job, of course, and I offer no apology, though hearing my own question does confer some sense of shame. None of it, however, is acknowledged by Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, who suffered the loss almost six months ago.
"I knew that my mom would be with me all season long," he says, quite matter of factly. "That was tough to go through in August when she passed away . and the circumstances around it. But it's given me peace. It's given me strength to know that she's in a better place, and she's watching down over me and protecting me."
Finally, just days after state authorities subpoenaed her business records, Mina took her life in Colorado . The coroner attributed cause of death to "ingestion of a large quantity of prescription medications." For Brees, the tragedy was compounded by the fact that he and his mother were finally coming together. "It was getting better," he was quoted as saying.
At the end of the season, he finds himself a Super Bowl quarterback. That may not qualify as a happy ending, but it's unmistakable evidence of his resilience.
At a listed height of six feet, Brees is the shortest quarterback to start a Super Bowl since Joe Theismann in 1984, though I can't recall one who stood taller.
Even the game, he says, is more than a game. "We are playing for much more than another 'W' or a Super Bowl," he says. "It's a Super Bowl for our city and our fans and everything they've been through . There is no organization or city that deserves a champion more than New Orleans ."
Toward that end, he had one of the great seasons in the history of quarterbacking: a completion rate better than 70 percent, 34 touchdown passes, and a rating of 109.6. Still, on the eve of Super Bowl XLIV, Brees is regarded as "the other quarterback." His opposite number, Peyton Manning, is a victory away from arguable consideration as the best ever. Manning, of course, hails from New Orleans, where his father is the Saints' quarterback emeritus.
But I figure there's an element in the Manning narrative that Brees can find even more fortifying. It's the knowledge that Archie found the strength to play ball and raise a family after finding his father dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.