It has to feel like a sign of pandemic progress to see actual live sports on ESPN, NBC or Fox these days.

This is what fans have been waiting for — even if we often have to look past the borders of America to find it.

European soccer leagues seemed to have worked out how to make playing in a pandemic work.

Every country is different, of course, but it seems Germany’s Brudesliga, England’s Premiership and Spain’s La Liga have all been able to put together a relatively full schedule.

One key element in all these leagues: No fans in the stands

I’m still debating whether pumping artificial crowd noise and chanting into soccer games is a good or bad thing. It is one way to fill the void and make the games seems more "authentic" for television audiences, but I just don’t know.

Until the pandemic is brought under control and eliminated, we’re going to have to get used to fan-free professional and college sports.

If sports fans are looking for a ray of hope, check out coverage of Super Rugby from New Zealand on ESPN. 

After more than three months of barren stadiums, it’s refreshing to see fans in the stands.

However, one sports league on a small island nation on the other side of the world can’t feel like too much progress for American sports fans.

Thus, the fact that professional sports are coming back in July has to seem like a breath of fresh air. 

The NBA is headed to Disney World with its not-quite full tournament beginning July 31, while drawing praise from health experts on its restart plan.

Major League Soccer will hit the ground first with the "MLS is Back" Tournament, also in Orlando, beginning July 8.

The NHL will have the Stanley Cup playoffs in hub cities as well, though locals are not happy that Columbus was overlooked so quickly. 

Then, of course, there’s Major League Baseball. With a pandemic on and baseball fans starving for the game, MLB and the players’ association basically acted like it was 1994 again.

Though Indians fans will fondly remember the opening of Jacobs Field that year, that’s no compliment.

The squabbling between owners and players nearly cost baseball its entire season. So much for doing what’s best for the game in unprecedented times.

A 60-game season is better than nothing, I guess, but I’d be shocked if this season didn’t lead to a ton of injuries and more ill will going forward.

Greed, not safety, still seems to be the primary motivator in baseball.

Right now, safety should be the primary concern for every sports organization. 

COVID-19 is still alive and raging.

The NFL acknowledged as much this week.

The NFL canceled the Hall of Fame game Thursday and postponed its 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony until 2021 in Canton.

There’s also the small matter of the fact that, with a virus that spreads via close contact, football is one of the sports with the most contact involved.

Hall of Fame events bring people in from a wide array of areas, which is exactly what you don’t want to do in pandemic.

The Akron marathon went "virtual" this year for the pretty much the same reason.

At the high school level, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has allowed for contact sports training to resume in full.

It’s a good step, but what does it mean for August practices?

Anyone who says they know what’s going to happen a month from now in this pandemic is kidding themselves.

Sports fans likely have become numb to the constant cascade of cancellations and postponements over the last few months.

Everything from the OHSAA and NCAA’s spring seasons to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo have derailed.

Unfortunately, if there’s a second wave of coronavirus infections, as some are predicting, be prepared for a second wave of cancellations.

Compared to some states, Ohio has done relatively well dealing with COVID-19. If there is a resurgence, however, the state could have no choice to but to shut down athletics (and other public gatherings) as it did in March.

Taking a look outside the state’s borders, some of the numbers being reported in Florida are alarming. On Thursday, Florida had 5,500 reported new cases of coronavirus, as opposed to 892 in Ohio.

Florida is where both NBA and MLS want to restart their seasons? Don’t be surprised to see those plans get scrapped if the numbers continue to rise. 

This pandemic cares not for anyone’s deadlines or timetables.

It seems one of the few weapons we have against COVID-19 is patience.

Sports fans have had their patience tested like anything in our lives over the last few months.

Fans will be allowed back in the stands eventually. The waiting though might be one of the hardest parts.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_GAN on Twitter.