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Major League Baseball went back to work with no fans in the stands – as seen here on “opening day,” July 24 in Cincinnati.

The SEC announced last week that it would play a COVID-19 football schedule against only conference opponents.

The move follows the lead of the Big 10 and Pac-12, which announced conference-only intentions earlier in July.

Football schedules are only good intentions at this point. I’ve been told that good intentions pave the road to Hell, which is probably an appropriate mental picture for trying to play football during the pandemic.

Starting a season is one thing, finishing it is another.

We know that, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and others are trying.

Positive cases will pop up. You have to trust your protocols, deal with the cases and move ahead.

At some point, you have to decide if the effort to continue is worth fighting the disruption.

A glance at the MLB standings on Monday morning showed the Braves, at 7-3, were in first place in the NL East, followed by the virus-stricken Marlins at 2-1 and the Nationals at 3-4.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said the sport will shut down if the virus isn’t better managed.

And MLB, like the NBA, is playing with no fans.

NASCAR, it appears, has to this point managed its fan attendance with no known major COVID outbreaks.

The Union-Leader, the largest newspaper in New Hampshire, estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 fans attended NASCAR’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire on Sunday.

Arguments can be made for or against fans at college football games this fall.

The schools are going to work hard to include fans because they need the revenue stream, and while the biggest money comes from the television contracts, every stream is big in these unsual times.

Different world

However, there’s no way the schools get through this without setting limits, and limits mean hurt feelings. Is one – hopefully just one – awkward season of college football worth endangering relationships with donors?

You can accommodate some but not all.

It’s true that fans attended football games in 1918 and 1919 during the Spanish Flu, many of them wearing masks.

That was a world without television options, without donors and expectations.

Sports Media Watch reported last November that ratings for SEC on CBS were averaging 6.68 million viewers, its highest numbers in almost 30 years.

Think of what those ratings will be when fans can’t attend games. Maybe college football could get more from its TV partners for that ratings boost.

In the interest of safety and in avoiding the nightmare of trying to decide who gets in and who doesn’t, let the fans sit this one out.

And let the schools get creative in 2021 in showing new ways to appreciate all fans, not just those who purchase premium seats.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group “Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.”

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