Palawan, the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is extended for the most part of Luzon but there are areas, including our very own City of the Living God, that got downgraded to a General Quarantine status. What does this General Quarantine mean? To keep it simple, it is a notch lower than Enhanced in a way that there will be an expanded list of businesses that can start opening, albeit, in a limited fashion.

Instead of a total mall closure, department stores and essential shops can also open with mall owners advised implementing social distancing measures in the premises. Work at home and office staff can start working on a 50-50 ratio in some industries. The bottom line, it’s a step toward trying to getting back to our normal way of life … even if we classify it as a “new normal”.

As we start seeing some provinces and states in the USA to start opening their economy again, the National Basketball Association is poised to allow players to report to their team’s training facilities and start using them on a limited basis. This means that players can start individual workouts on a scheduled basis and of course, do one at a time.

It may not necessarily mean sports leagues will start opening already but it definitely is a ray of sunshine knowing that the athletes are given the green light to start working back to game shape.

In the local front, our very own Philippine Basketball Association and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball Leagues remain shut since the ECQ is still in place in Metro Manila. I would personally say that if teams are serious to resume play in these two leagues, the best bet is to start holding tournaments in the provincial front particularly the low-risk areas, and keep social distancing still in place at the game venues with face masks as a mandatory rule. Television will be key since working from home would still be a norm even if the quarantine proceedings are softened up. This is the new normal in sports. I expect a shift from game day venue on-court viewership to live television. We already see it somewhat in the elimination rounds of the PBA and MPBL. Half-full venues but major television viewership.

The COVID 19 pandemic will definitely change the way we do things even in the sporting world. Would it be fun playing in a half-full arena even in a playoff match? It definitely won’t be the same but we expect this to be the new normal until at least a cure or a vaccine is found.

A professional baseball league in Taiwan resumed operations on empty stands but did well in putting up props of people and robots playing the drums to simulate a live audience. We may not necessarily go and try this extreme measure but they managed to pull it off and resume their season.

I am sure our sports leagues are in the midst of planning to reinvent their products amidst the pandemic. At least for the pro or semi-pro leagues like the PBA and MPBL, I strongly feel that resumption of play can happen in provincial islands.

Since Basilan and Davao are semifinalists in the MPBL, Basilan can host the playoffs to finish the current season. All 4 semifinalists can hole out in the area for 4 weeks just to complete the playoffs and finish the season. That means Metro Manila teams like Makati and San Juan would have to sacrifice home-court advantage in this setup but hey, what much can we do given the current situation. I am certain the MPBL think tank is pondering about this possibility. This is not a new concept since the NBA has already thought about holding resumption of play in a “neutral” single location to hold all games and playoff matches.

For the PBA, shifting to more provincial games will not only bring the league closer to the grassroots but would also help stir away from Metro Manila where most COVID cases are being reported. Again, half-full stands and wider Television coverage is key.

For the Collegiate leagues, let’s see how they adjust to a new school year. Based on reports, it seems the DepEd and CHED are pondering opening all classes across levels within the August and September time frames. I believe summer training and rookie recruitments are on hold so we don’t know how will that impact the varsity domain. It is a tough situation but the bigger schools, where athletes are typically housed near or inside the campuses like the Ateneo, FEU, La Salle, UE, San Beda, UP, etc., can start allowing individual workouts for their players the moment a quarantine downgrade is made. A good first step coming out of a long layoff.

It is tough times but with the mindset of survival and overcoming odds, I believe sports in the country will rebound the moment we see COVID19 infections slow down or when we see the curve flatten. We obviously still need to be very cautious in opening sports and gaming events but similar to how the government think-tanks are strategizing to start opening economies around the world, our sports leaders must start doing the same.

Stay home, and stay healthy, everyone!

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

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