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What to make of the return to sports

If one reads the daily stories that flood the AP Sports wire, it is often confusing as to what to make of what is happening as athletes begin their return to their schools while others battle over the almighty dollar like Major League Baseball who if the players union keeps up their demands there may not be the first pitch in 2020.
There are some who are still questioning if things are returning to quickly as this week there have been reports of three Oklahoma State players being diagnosed with COVID-19, seven Arkansas States athletes testing positive, and even Alabama hasn’t been able to roll past the COVID-19 with at least five players testing positive.
I suppose this was to be expected but even at that if this continues it will continue to be like Russian-Roulette for Athletic Directors and Universities to decide whether to let fans into stadiums or not.
Even sports that have returned to participation like NASCAR is starting to miss the presence of fans in the stands as they race.
For example, at Bristol last week when Chase Elliott and Joey Logano crashed racing for the win in the final lap, if fans had filled the Last Great Colosseum at Bristol there would have been a raucous response.
And even drivers are taking a big notice at not having fans in the stands.
I couldn’t imagine Neyland Stadium in Knoxville where Tennessee and Alabama were playing being void of fans – could you?
It just wouldn’t be the same as anyone who knows anything about sports knows that athletes feed off what is happening in the stands.
If a team is throttling someone badly, it would be enough to make players want to walk off the field.
However on the other hand, if a team is down by two scores and all of a sudden put together a string of positive plays, the energy they get when 100,000-plus fans roar so loud you can’t even hear yourself think can play a huge role in a team winning in dramatic fashion or fading away.
I wouldn’t want to be in any of these decision-makers shoes but it is something that will need to be hashed out if they stand behind what they say is most important and that is the student-athlete.
Then if you elect to allow 30,000 of 100,000 into the game, how do you keep a riot from taking place as fans are ready to explode in excitement especially if you are a Tennessee Vol fan seeing all the recruits that are coming in.
It trickles all the way down to the high schools where even the TSSAA is taking the high road and allowing athletic directors and school directors to call most of the early shots in regards to their athletes.
The NBA, NHL, and MLS are getting ready to get back underway soon and it will be interesting to see how they will each handle the decision to allow fans to attend games and then what the end results will be if COVID-19 starts to rear back up.
I know many say if thousands can riot in recent days there shouldn’t be a problem with going to a game.
Time will tell and I know people are sitting on the edge of their seats for someone to jump up and say that games will start at the regular time and fans will be allowed to attend but I think we are still a long way from that happening.
The Southern Conference which ETSU is a member of was going to allow their athletes back as recent as this week but it was announced that the conference has elected to wait just a little longer.
That is probably due to all the reports coming in from other schools and they have chosen to err on the side of caution.
Every conversation that I have had as of late the same conversation comes up how football at all levels is a cash cow for schools and if you want to see what is going to happen down the road, watch what football does.
It’s about the only indicator sports fans can watch to see what the new normal will be.