Given all we know about the COVID-19 and its variants, the sports world should probably shut down indefinitely.

That's not likely to happen.

So let's move on to another logical step: Placing teams in bubbles, which worked so well for the NBA, WNBA and NHL during the previous height of the pandemic.

That's not likely to happen, either.

The sports world is like America as a whole — tired of worrying about the virus, intent on making money and living as normally as possible.

So let's move on to the logical and necessary step that can and should happen, the step that could allow leagues and fans to proceed guilt-free and with relative safety.

Commissioners and players association leaders need to agree to require full vaccination and booster shots for all league employees, and require all fans attending games to provide proof of vaccinations and boosters.

It's the right time for players associations to demonstrate that they care about the health of their constituents — and not just their financial health. Players associations should agree to this move in the name of player safety.

The NFL postponed three games this weekend. The Wild was forced to postpone two games this past week because of COVID cases on the opposing rosters. Five NHL teams have been shut down until at least Dec. 27.

The NBA has been hit hard by COVID, with dozens of players testing positive and the Chicago Bulls postponing two games. On Friday night, the Timberwolves, a team where every player is vaccinated, didn't have Anthony Edwards and Taurean Prince available after they entered the NBA's health and safety protocols. On Saturday, noted anti-vaxxer Kyrie Irving joined eight Nets teammates in the protocols.

If leagues aren't going to shut down to curb the spread of the virus, they should become societal leaders and require all of their employees, including players, to be fully vaccinated.

What do we admire in athletes? Leadership and mental toughness. This is an ideal time for leagues and athletes to demonstrate both.

Professional athletes and their unions need to agree to mandatory vaccinations. If they don't, sports leagues should demand them anyway, and fight it out in court if necessary.

It won't be easy or convenient, but it's the move that will allow leagues to continue to play games, make TV money and host at least some fans without regret or liability.

Can it be done?

Yes, if athletes are intelligent and mature enough to accept doing what is best for their teams and their leagues.

I've spent time in New York and San Francisco this fall. In both cities, proof of vaccination was required to enter a restaurant or attend a play. Sports fans should be required to do the same, while closing the Antonio Brown loophole.

The Tampa Bay receiver was one of three NFL players suspended for providing a fake vaccination card. If three were caught, how many NFL players have gotten away with it? Hundreds?

Players and team employees should be required to get vaccinated at team facilities, observed by the team's medical staff. Mandating vaccines won't help if athletes cheat the system, and athletes have been cheating the system since the invention of the spitball in the 19th century.

While the rise of new variants is dangerous for older unvaccinated Americans, and those with existing medical conditions, what we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic is that vaccinations and booster shots dramatically reduce the chance of death and serious symptoms for those who contract the virus.

If everyone in every league is vaccinated and boosted, and wearing masks during team activities, the games can go on with what at least some experts say would be an acceptable level of risk.

Here's what Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University, told Sports Illustrated:

"These leagues have an enormous opportunity to learn and demonstrate how to coexist with COVID — how to teach the rest of us, frankly, how to do it right."