The Portland Phoenix

Game On: Thankful for the ‘toy department’

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, here’s why I’m thankful for the toy department — and why you should be, too. 

Let’s start here. A little context, if you will. Frankly, I never really liked the idea of sports coverage being considered “the toy department.” The moniker discounts the myriad examples of non-trivial sports journalism out there, think sports business, controversies, scandals and deep-dive human interest profiles. This Columbia Journalism Review article illustrates this point in greater detail. 

I recently changed my opinion on what I once viewed as the trivializing of sports reporting. I’m glass half full now, not half empty. Sports and toys have so much in common. Toys are important, and there’s one to fit anyone’s interests. Toys distract us, often children, of what’s going on around us. They soften pain. They raise spirits in tumultuous times.

So too do sports, and that’s why I’m OK with this genre of journalism’s status as the toy department. Toys are nearly a $40 billion industry in the United States. Sports are a grown-up version of toys in terms of value, a more than $350 billion industry in North America. Toys, and sports, are critical to a functioning economy.

But why am I thankful for the toy department? 

Sports open up doors. Sports provide entertainment. Sports bring us together. 

On the first point. I wrote in my August 2021 introductory column about how I got into sports reporting. Long story short, my dad bestowed his passion for sports upon me. An opportunity came up for him to cover some high school sports, but he couldn’t due to a work conflict. I stepped in. A solid English student who liked sports, and it all worked out. Two years later I started as a sports correspondent at the Boston Globe, something I still do to this day. Then to Cape Cod, Detroit and back here in Maine. Then to marketing. Sports opened up a door into writing, something I never knew I was good at growing up, and then, a career path. 

Point two, entertainment. I don’t think I’m alone in this, but the early part of the pandemic taught me how much I relied on sports for something to do. Watching games is a seasonal rite of passage. World Series in the fall. Super Bowl in the winter. March Madness in the spring, and baseball all summer. Any trip I take is incomplete without something sports-related. Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston are travel destinations for tourists who don’t even like sports. Whether you consciously love sports or not, I’m sure they’ve provided some sort of entertainment in your life. 

Point three, bringing us together. I didn’t realize the luxury college provides you in terms of social life. Since graduating in 2020, my college friends and I, none of whom are in Maine, have to find reasons to get together. There’s no more going upstairs to someone’s dorm room, so many times we gather to consume sports. It’s entertainment. Sports provide the backdrop for making memories with the people you care about the most. 

The toy department impacts us all positively to some degree. There’s no shame that toys, and sports, are fun. Sports open up doors. Sports provide entertainment. And, most importantly, sports bring us together.

Let’s all be thankful for sports, one of society’s best toys. 

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

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