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ope体育FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2018, file photo, UFC president Dana White speaks at a press conference in New York. The UFC is returning to competition on May 9 with three shows in eight days in Jacksonville, Florida. The mixed martial arts promotion announced its plans Friday, April 24, 2020, to return to action after postponing and canceling several shows due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dana White also plans to hold shows on May 13 and May 16 at the same arena in Florida. Only “essential personnel” will be in the arena, according to White. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

ope体育Like a fan whose team suffered a premature playoff exit, sports fans in general have been going through some different stages of emotions during our currently sportsless world.

First there was the feeling of shock.

There it was, a March Wednesday night with the usual midweek NBA and NHL games. College conference basketball tournaments were ongoing. The Nebraska state high school boys basketball tournament was about set to tip off.

ope体育A COVID-19 positive NBA player quickly began an amazing 48-hour domino effect. Poof went NBA games. Poof went NHL games. Poof went conference tournaments, some in midgame.

It kept going for the next few weeks.

ope体育March Madness? Poof!

ope体育The Masters? Poof!

The Olympics? Poof!

Sadly, the Nebraska high school spring sports season also disappeared.

ope体育Seeing millionaire professional athletes sidelined doesn’t necessarily tug on the heartstrings. Seeing high school athletes — some of them seniors in their final sports season ever — lose the opportunity to compete due to no fault of their own does.

After the shock wore off, sports fans tried to settle in and fill their need for sports.

Athletes competing in video games on TV is now a big thing.

ope体育The other 95% of the filling in of the need for sports consists of watching, rewatching, discussing and tweeting all things “The Last Dance.”

ope体育But those 10 episodes will only last so long, and I suspect any sequel about Michael Jordan’s baseball career won’t be as riveting.

ope体育So it’s at this point that sports fans begin to look forward to sports actually, truly starting back up.

ope体育When will that be? We don’t know.

ope体育But can you imagine the response?

If Major League Baseball starts up its season in empty stadiums, even non-baseball fans will tune in just to get a taste of sports.

ope体育It would be unique to clearly hear the crack of the bat and the clanging of the Houston Astros’ trash cans inside empty stadiums. I can only hope that leads to dugout chatter with millionaires telling the opposing millionaire pitcher how much he stinks.

Hey, the return of sports after a pandemic is a good time to give professional athletes a brief hall pass from complete sportsmanship.

Can the NBA and NHL return in time to salvage their postseasons? What formats will those playoffs take? How will the athletes perform after extended layoffs away from their glitzy training facilities?

Empty arenas, centralized neutral sites — where they take place won’t matter. Eyes will tune in.

The UFC has been promising to lead the way in getting back into business, and its president Dana White seems to be doing as he says.

After it took the highest executives at ESPN/Disney to KO White’s plan to hold a pay-per-view card at a Native American casino in California during the pandemic several weeks ago, the UFC is on track to hold cards May 9, 13 and 16 at an empty arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Will non mixed martial arts fans tune in just because it’s live sports? If so, will the old misconception that MMA is a free-for-all bloodsport finally be dispelled?

ope体育There is certainly risk involved. Can the fighters and their teams be kept safe? Is anyone else concerned that fighters will be cutting sometimes ridiculous amounts of weight during fight week, which isn’t exactly the best thing for immune systems during the middle of a pandemic?

If White safely gets these events into the books, it could be a big assist. The May 9 card is loaded.

ope体育Casual fans won’t shell out money for the pay-per-view portion, but the undercard which will be aired on ESPN includes several fights that are worthy of a PPV slot. That could generate new fans.

Germany’s soccer Bundesliga is also aiming for a May 9 return.

At some time, sports will return in full swing.

ope体育And fans’ moods will resemble that of when their No. 16 seeded team knocked off No. 1 in the NCAA tournament.

Dale Miller is a sports writer for the Independent.

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