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Michael Hoffer Here, There, and Everywhere

11/22/2017

by Clarke Canfield

Michael Hoffer Here, There, and Everywhere first appeared in Islandport Magazine, Winter 2017.

You have to consider these numbers when talking about Michael Hoffer: Thirteen; 146; 5,200; 21,000; 85,000.

Those figures help explain how Hoffer has become undoubtedly the most prolific and arguably the best-known sports reporter in the Greater Portland region. The numbers speak for themselves.

  • Thirteen schools Hoffer covers from Cape Elizabeth to Freeport.
  • 146 sports teams he writes about. 
  • 5,200 (and growing) Twitter followers.
  • 21,000 estimated number of words he writes each week, online and in print, about games he covers.
  • 85,000 (and growing) sports tweets he has put out in the five or so years that he’s been tweeting regularly.


In the nearly seventeen years that Hoffer has covered sports teams full-time as sports editor of The Forecaster family of four weekly newspapers, he has established a reputation as a thorough, accurate, and caring writer who gives readers in-depth coverage of games. He’s read by fans, players, coaches, athletic directors, students, parents, grandparents, boosters—you name it.
But it isn’t just newspapers. He’s on the radio; he’s on TV; he provides commentary for internet sites that stream high school games live.

And he’s in demand. He speaks three or four times a year at sports banquets. He’s also won multiple awards from the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and associations representing Maine lacrosse, field hockey, and basketball coaches.

Humble and Good-natured Guy

Hoffer wouldn’t agree with this assessment, being the humble and good-natured guy he is, but you could say he’s a celebrity of sorts in the world of southern Maine high school sports.

“It’s kind of overwhelming at times, it’s humbling, and it’s flattering,” he said on a recent Friday night while covering a football game between Cape Elizabeth and Fryeburg Academy. “It’s really cool, though, too. ‘Celebrity?’ I don’t know about that. That’s pushing it. It’s nice to be liked. I feel it’s a byproduct of hard work and treating people the right way. It’s kind of dizzying at times getting that kind of response.”

Ask any coach or athletic director and they’ll tell you that Hoffer’s success comes down to his passion for and devotion to what he does for a living.

“He loves his job,” said longtime Portland High School basketball coach Joe Russo. “Wherever he goes, whatever he’s covering, he enjoys what he’s doing.”

Hoffer grew up in Arizona and took a roundabout route to Maine. He was ready for a life adventure and a cooler climate after graduating with a history degree from Northern Arizona University, so he moved to Boston, not knowing a soul. He worked at various jobs, at a bookstore, at Goodwill, and at a financial services company.

Finding His Calling

But he tired of city life, so two years later he moved to Portland; again he didn’t know anybody and he worked here and there, in jobs that had nothing to do with sports. But in his gut, he wasn’t satisfied, so—in a move that would change his life—he went to a career counselor. Given his passion for sports and writing, maybe he should combine the two and be a sportswriter, the counselor suggested.

“It was like, ‘Oh my god, I can do this,’” he thought at the time, finding his calling at age thirty. So he began writing occasional sports stories on a freelance basis before being hired full-time by The Forecaster in 2001.

Depending on the season, you’ll find him five or six days a week covering high school sports, driving from here to there to get from game to game. In the fall, it’s football, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball. Winter brings hockey and basketball. Come spring, he’s covering baseball, softball, and lacrosse.

He’s intent on giving thorough and comprehensive game breakdowns, providing almost play-by-play coverage in his stories, writing not just about the touchdowns (or goals or runs or points), but what led up to those scores. “I write stories the way I’d want to read them,” he said.

South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston said besides knowing the teams and players and coaches, Hoffer is an authority on the histories of the sports he writes about, giving him a great understanding about the importance of athletics in the communities he covers.

Filling A Void

The daily newspaper coverage of high school sports isn’t what it used to be with thinning staffs,” he added. “And Michael has filled that void … for many years.”

On this particular night, at Cape Elizabeth’s Hannaford Field, Hoffer carries two notebooks—one for play-by-play, one for statistics—as he stalks the sidelines and the football moves up and down the field. Besides keeping meticulous notes on each and every play, Hoffer is a tweet machine, typically sending out thirty or so tweets a game. Twitter, he said, has “revolutionized” his coverage by allowing him to greatly expand his audience and connect with readers.

Hoffer has no interest in covering professional or big-time college sports. “This is the pure level of competition,” he said, looking toward the Cape Elizabeth and Fryeburg Academy football teams on the field. “And again, it’s the people and the great relationships I’ve made over the years.”

Even after writing about thousands upon thousands of high school sports contests through the years, he’d cover even more games if he could.
“Unfortunately,” he said with a chuckle, “I can’t clone myself and be everywhere.”

Clarke Canfield is a former journalist who worked for the Associated Press and at newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald. He is the author of  Those Damned Yankees.

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