How the game of basketball unites families

Alexander Hassenstein

In December 1982 my parents divorced. Left behind were three children and a world of hurt feelings and emotions. Since then, I have communicated with my dad through the language of sports. Specifically basketball...

I've watched many Nuggets games with my father since about 2001. Back then, of course, the team was coached by Dan Issel and led on the court by Nick Van Exel and Antonio McDyess. The face and facets of the Denver Nuggets have changed frequently through the years, but one thing remained the same. Rick and Jeff Morton sitting down and talking about basketball, reminiscing about past teams, and just sitting quietly and watching the action.

I come from a broken family. My parents divorce was difficult for me, but it wasn't insurmountable. I'd like to say I had a perfectly normal childhood growing up in Arvada, Colorado - living with my mother and her husband, seeing my dad every weekend like clockwork. Never missed a weekend. The bond was never broken.

When I was about 15 years-old my mom decided to move everyone to Los Angeles, CA, and then a few months later we came back to Colorado, to Grand Junction. The distance made my communication and relationship with my dad all the more difficult. His full time job with the Rocky Mountain News (later the Denver Newspaper Agency) meant we couldn't see him as often. I finished high school in Grand Junction and did my post-school wandering alternating from fitful attempts at college (I was never a good student, often felt I was smarter than the teachers who were supposed to be educating me and it led to some lazy schoolwork) to working at a grocery store. After seven years in Grand Junction I couldn't take the small town vibe anymore and returned to my home, closer to Denver, and I've been here ever since.

The entire time I was gone (seven and a half years total) I never lost contact with my dad. Despite the Nuggets being generally the worst team in basketball during the majority of the time I was away, we could still communicate via the language of basketball. The long distance between us didn't matter. Whether it was complaining about Bernie Bickerstaff letting Dikembe Mutombo go via free agency, or watching a young McDyess arrive, then leave, then come back to the Nuggets in the span of three seasons - no matter what, we had basketball to discuss.

A particular highlight was watching the 1993-94 Nuggets scrape themselves up from the dung-heap that was the Paul Westhead-era and become the first No. 8-seed to beat a No. 1-seed (Seattle Supersonics) in NBA Playoffs. While that was a brief, shining moment in the 90's, it was like heaven to excitedly call my dad and re-live every detail. These games were a bonding moment through a broken family.

After what I consider my exile from the city of Denver, I moved back in October of 2001 and never looked back. Not only has my life improved, my relationship with my dad has improved to the point where I consider him a friend. As a grizzled newspaper man, my transition into blog writing was a tough pill for him to swallow, however acceptance is forthcoming. Meanwhile the Nuggets success and defeats are experienced in equal parts by us both, and it's in times like these where you love having someone to bounce your ideas off of.

There will be a time, sooner than I'd like to admit, where I must move on from what I do here at Denver Stiffs (not anytime soon), much as my dad moved on from his job with the Denver Newspaper Agency after 34 years. In the grand scheme of things, moving on is a natural course of life. However, if you do what you do THE BEST, then you won't leave with any regrets. My dad retired with no regrets, and with his head held high.

The game of basketball helped me forge my relationship with my dad by giving me a way to communicate with no judgment, no preconditions, and no animosity. Though my parents divorced when I was 5 years-old, I always had my dad. Because of that, you see the wonderfully imperfect person who writes for and frustrates the readers of Denver Stiffs. One day, my dad will accept everything about me ... and he will do so because we have the language of communication between us. That's all that matters.

Happy birthday Dad.

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