Deering football practice
Deering High School freshman Dom Bixler takes a handoff during the Rams' first practice of the season Aug. 15. (Portland Phoenix/Greg Levinsky)
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Call me a curmudgeon at age 24, but I yearn for how it was back in the day. Or, rather, how I heard it was before I was born.

It seems like local sports have lost their luster, and it’s not the fault of the student-athletes or coaches. It’s not anyone’s fault in particular.

Greg LevinskyLiking sports isn’t a prerequisite to showing up at a local school’s athletic event. It’s really about caring for your community.

After the pandemic wiped out sports for parts of two school years, this is the year scholastic sports return to pre-March 2020 normalcy. As Mainers, it’s time to just show up. It’s not that hard.

Take a couple hours out of your week and support your local teams. Swing by the local high school’s early afternoon field hockey match. Spend a Saturday afternoon at a Division 3 football game. Pull up a seat at a community college soccer match. Stop by your local field on your evening walk. Visit your friend at their kid’s game.

I love professional and major college sports. I really do. It’s never been easier to watch teams and athletes from anywhere around the world. I get that. It’s great. And it’s more of an imposition, you might say, to attend local events. You might miss this week’s edition of “College GameDay,” or that oh-so-important Pirates-Cardinals highlight on MLB Network Strikezone.

Absolute nonsense. Save some time for what’s outside your window. There’s a purity to high school and small college sports, especially the former. The kids are playing for their school, their town, and their peers.

I’m not saying you have to be a rabid supporter riding the highs and lows. And I’m certainly not imploring you to go to every game of every, or any, team, school, or sport. But fall sports are right around the corner. Preseason started Aug. 15. It’s the perfect time to get in the habit.

I checked out the first Deering High School football practice of the year. After going winless last fall, the Rams have a new head coach in Leon Smith. Spirits were high. Energy abounded.

It’s also an exciting fall less than a mile away at Cheverus High School, where the field hockey team hopes to repeat as Class A state champions and the football team is again playing 11-on-11.

Head downtown and Portland High School is fielding another strong slate of fall teams.

Anytown, Maine, could have your next state champ or Division I star. There may be a future teacher on the soccer pitch, or the next Steve Jobs sprinting through the home stretch of a cross-country race.

Regular-season high school contests aren’t far away. Local college competition starts in the coming days.

My challenge to you?

Attend a local sports event every couple of weeks. Do it again in the winter. Again in the spring. And don’t stop there: school plays, musicals, and concerts are always a good time. Supporting the youth in your community helps build a promising future.

So it’s “Game On” for the 2022-’23 sports year, for the players, the coaches – and for us, the spectators. We love to buy local, eat local, and drink local. Let’s channel that interest into local sports, too. Our communities will be better for it.

Greg Levinsky is a Portland native and follower of local sports. He is an alumnus of Deering High School and Boston University whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Detroit Free Press, and several Maine newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected].

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