Another bubble for PBA?
MANILA, Philippines — With the surge of COVID-19 cases raising alarm levels throughout the country, the PBA will likely delay the opening of the 46th season to late this month or early May but commissioner Willie Marcial said yesterday returning to a bubble is a remote option considering the costs, logistics and the mental stress factor.
The PBA restarted the suspended 45th season with a single conference in the Clark bubble, playing 85 games from Oct. 11 to Dec. 9 last year. Only one match had been played before the pandemic struck and it took eight months before the season was resumed by the IATF. The Clark bubble was threatened twice with a series of false positives and the schedule had to stop for four days until test results were confirmed to be negative. Deputy commissioner Eric Castro said the calendar was adjusted and to keep within the timetable, 30 contests were played in nine days from Nov. 3 to 11, requiring four quadrupleheaders, two tripleheaders and three doubleheaders.
Marcial said during the four-day interruption, he called meetings with players and coaches to assure them the bubble was impregnable. “Hanga ako sa kanilang sakripisyo at walang nagreklamo,” he said. “Sabi ko, lalabanin ko ‘ito, di ako susuko. Kumpyansa ako sa higpit ng safety and health protocols natin. Sobrang suporta ng IATF, especially si Secretary Vince (Dizon) na hands-on ang kaniyang supervision. Ginawa namin lahat with (medical consultant) Dr. (Jose Raul) Canlas kaya imposible ma-breach ang bubble. Honestly, ang lakas ng loob ko ay galing sa Diyos. Pumasok sa isip ko lahat ng scenario na pwedeng mangyari at ready kami to address whatever sa tulong ng Panginoon.”
Marcial said putting up another bubble this season may not be practicable. “Ang hirap ng dinanas ng mga players, coaches at staff,” he said. “Hindi ganoon kadali mag-survive sa bubble. Ang ginastos sa Clark mga P65 to 70 million at nag-share pa ang CDC sa testing at may diskwento sa Quest Hotel na sinarili ng PBA. Sina Beau (Belga), L. A. (Tenorio) at Paul (Lee), sabi sa akin kaya nilang ulitin. Maraming nagsabi miss nila kwarto sa Quest. Pagmamalaki nila habang buhay ang karanasan nila sa bubble, part of history ’yan. Pero yung mental stress ang bigat. May ibang player ’di nila kaya ang pagkain kasi sanay sila sa special diet. Kung sakasakali magkaroon uli ng bubble, it could be for four months, sobrang challenging na ’yun.”
The success of the PBA bubble led to the restart of several other sporting events, including the Chooks-To-Go 3x3, PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup, boxing and the MPBL. “Ang PBA naging template,” said Marcial. “Sa PBA nagsimula lahat at kami’y taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa PBA Board of Governors, IATF, GAB chairman Baham Mitra, Secretary Vince at Senator Bong Go.”