Life inside the PBA Bubble isn’t an easy stroll for all the teams, players and coaches alike.
It’s tough. As you could only imagine, they will be two months away from their families—two-and-a half months if they ever make it all the way to the championship round—not to mention the restrictions set by the league to follow health protocols, preventing all members of the league delegation from going out of the Bubble.
Who would dare attempt to leave the Bubble? A hefty P100,000 fine, a month without pay from their mother teams and a five-game suspension next season. Is anybody stupid enough to do such?
As soon as team members arrived in the Bubble, they were immediately quarantined and not allowed to leave their rooms. Several personnel were assigned to deliver them food until they are free to go out of the room.
“It felt like we were released from prison,” two-time grand slam mentor Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra told The Link right after the quarantine period.
So imagine the things you can do in the first few days, with you confined in the four corners of your room, trying to find every source of entertainment you can get to fight boredom. Thanks to technologies, multi-titled coach Yeng Guiao of NLEX was able to pray the Holy Rosary nightly with his family via video streaming.
The first few days, however, were also a struggle for Guiao, who finds his situation ironic. He has a house across the fence of Quest Hotel in Clark, where the entire delegation is billeted, yet it felt like he was away from home.
“So near, yet so far,” he added. “It’s really so difficult to look for something enjoyable when you buy yourself in your room for 60 to 70 hours. I guess the most entertainment I got was watching the Trump and Biden debate and the NBA. Other than that, it’s just been waiting, talking to our loved ones as much as we can and doing some planning in my head.”
Players and coaches had to find means to entertain themselves.
Beau Belga and Ryan Araña turned a portion of their room into a sari-sari store, ready to serve their comrades battling loneliness and provide them of their necessities. Lately, Belga, the tough but jolly Rain or Shine center/forward, tried to amuse himself by playing chess—against himself. Looking at the way he makes every move, it was more like a tennis match than just a mere battle of wits as he has to move from one place to another.
As for Coach Nash Racela of Blackwater, he himself had his own version of bubbles as he found solace in washing his clothes.
The preparation itself is going to be a lot more challenging as teams will be limited to just a month of preparation, including the five-on-five scrimmages, which were only allowed just recently. In less than a week, the Bubble Tournament will begin and coaches need to be a little more clever in terms of getting their teams ready.
It is quite similar to the preparation stage of an ill-prepared national squad composed of handpicked of talents from the PBA to represent the country in major international competitions, except that there’s no pandemic.
So that makes the PBA Bubble Tournament more relevant, more significant for everybody. It’s like getting comfortable in an uncomfortable situation and whichever team can adapt and keep themselves in good shape in about half a year of being idle from the competitions are likely to get the advantage in this shortened season.
Whoever said that the PBA Bubble is not a real tournament may be out of their minds. The real test comes here. After all, the PBA is a league where grown men compete and are separated from the boys.