The American Cornhole League, the UFC and the Korean Baseball Organization, in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, are back in action.

NASCAR (this weekend, in fact), the NHL, NBA and European soccer soon will be, if all goes according to plan.

Albeit, the returning sports will have distinct new looks, with distancing, masks, gloves, and no spectators.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to the sports slated to make a return, there is already some disconnect between the suits, who will be sequestered in their offices, luxury boxes or wherever, and the ones who will actually be putting themselves out there, the players.

A spokesperson for the soccer organization La Liga told a news organization there had been "all kinds of feedback from players," with some being hesitant and most wanting to come back.

La Liga president Javier Tebas told Movistar that there will be "zero" risk for soccer matches to be played every day in Spain when the league resumes, come June. First and Second-division teams in Spain have resumed training.

La Liga will be watching the German soccer league Bundesliga, which is scheduled to resume May 16, although there has been a very recent upsurge in cases in the country, to see how things go.

At press time, the NBA was planning to try to resume in July. Reaction has been mixed.

During an ESPN broadcast, a commentator asked a colleague, "As a player, what is your reaction?"

The colleague's reaction was skeptical, to say the least. He laid out several potential hazards (an indoor sport, players constantly being in close quarters, lots of heavy contact, etc.), then said, "(I would say to management), 'How will you protect me?'"

Meanwhile, what are the chances of the NFL, an outdoor sport with constant heavy contact in close quarters, starting on time? The NFL has said for the record it is planning on an on-time start to the season in mid-September, but I doubt no one really knows at this point.

An on-time NFL start is far from a certainty in my mind, though it is May.

When it comes to how many fans there will be in attendance when the American sports make their return, they will have this in common: There won't be any.

I watched the American Cornhole League competition Saturday, as a first-time viewer of that sport. It's not easy. Competitors try to throw their own bags into a hole on a board from some 27 feet away from a throwing ring and often try to "block" their opponents from doing the same thing.

Everyone wore some sort of face covering. Some competitors opted for the mask because of the sight advantage. Others opted for the face shield because of the breathing advantage.

There was strict distancing protocol throughout. Right at the end, the winner and a worker hugged but, since they'd been distancing all day, had likely been tested right before the event and were wearing protection, I figure they were good.

There has been an upsurge in coronavirus cases in South Korea very recently, but the KBO has carried on, though if one player tests positive the league will shut down. The league is in its second week of play.

I've seen a few KBO games. The distancing on the field has been fine. The distancing in the dugouts has been terrible. The players have been conscientious about not storming out of the dugout to customarily mob a teammate in celebration at home plate after a home run.

They do elbow bumps and the like instead of high-fives. All the umps wear masks.

Even in an era such as this, there is a time when people need to make their own decisions. That includes athletes, and all other workers, having the right to decide whether or not they are ready to return to work amidst a pandemic.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.