One big reason why the Philippine Basketball Association can’t seem to cancel the Season 45 totally during the pandemic are the fans, the lifeblood of the league.
And there’s no reason, too, why the league can’t hold even just one conference, knowing full well that there’s already a model after which the league can pattern its own plan to hold a tournament in the so-called ‘bubble.’
And so, through an elaborately planned ‘bubble,’ the pro-league launched the Philippine Cup in Angeles City, Pampanga in an audacious attempt to bring hope and joy to millions of fans during pandemic.
And look! the league is nearing to complete the Philippine Cup, with the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Giga figuring in exciting battle in the best-of-7 series which is expected to reach to at least Game 5 after the latter stopped the former in Game 3.
“Itong bubble, itong hirap ng mga players, coaches at ng PBA family, ay para sa mga fans talaga, para mabigyan natin ng konting pag-asa at konting saya,” said PBA commissioner Willie Marcial as he paid tribute to the fans who continue to support the pro league through thick and thin.
The concept bubble is simple.
As long as all the players, coaches and team/league personnel could be herded under one location, where they are tested every now and then to assure none has been infected with the dreaded virus, there is an excellent promise of health and safety for all involved.
That worked in the NBA, and probably in the PBA as well, with the success of the Philippine Cup just around the corner.
Sports, leagues, and all forms of entertainment have been put on hold since the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, the domino effect of which saw countries of the world implementing lockdowns in their territories.
But the PBA, thinking of the valued fans, never wavered in its search for possible way to push through with its 45th season.
“There is no way na hindi natin ‘to ituloy, may model na, the NBA,” said PBA chairman Ricky Vargas of Talk ‘N Text during a previous interview. “And we should just go ahead and look forward to the time na maglalaro na tayo whether in an NBA way or other innovative way.”
The league, according to Vargas, had cited three locations to convert as ‘bubble’ area, namely, the National University in Calamba City, the Araneta Coliseum (because of various hotels in its vicinity) and the Angeles City in Pampanga.
“Governors were excited, and we were talking about several options dahil wala naman tayo sa Disney land gaya nu’ng sa NBA in terms of following the bubble,” said Vargas, referring to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
“Tiningnan natin ‘yung sa NU sa Calamba, Araneta (Coliseum) dahil may mga hotels sa paligid, and Clark,” the PBA chair stressed.
There was also the concern on the budget which could prove larger than expected.
“I agreed with what the owner of Alaska, Fred Uytengsu, said that there is going to be pressure financially on the teams if this goes on for longer period of time; not only the teams, but also the PBA itself,” said Vargas.
In the end, the league decided to hold the well-planned bubble to keep its trust to the fans.
“More importantly, we do not want the PBA to lose out the popularity just because we’re not doing anything,” said Vargas.
Even without a single fan at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center, the fans’ support was overwhelming as manifested by the millions of them religiously following the elimination games on social platforms.
“Simula’t sapul naman para sa fans ito, sa family ng mga players, sa family ng taga PBA. ‘Yung mabigyan natin ng pag-asa ‘yung iba sports,” said Marcial.
Most of the active players, especially those whose teams got eliminated, have all been on vacation already. Many of them are expected to return to their provinces to spend time with their families.
The opening of the Season 46 is sometime in April next year, hence players would be back by March or early April.