In an attempt to bring life back to the new normal, the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF – EID) has finally allowed the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Philippine Football League (PFL) to resume “controlled” conditioning and practices to get their athletes back in shape. The PBA and PFL are both professional groups under the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) and these two are the only pro sporting bodies that are allowed, thus far, to start ramping their operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personally, I think we lagged behind again on this aspect especially since the likes of Korea, Japan and China have already started their baseball and basketball programs a few weeks back. European soccer has already started play and even the United States has started opening up training for their various professional teams. I understand that the country wants to be overly cautious in reopening the economy including our local sports leagues. Learn from what the bigger economies are doing, assess the impact of their moves, and adapt. That has been the trademark of how we are reacting to the pandemic. I believe we lack our own way of devising plans and strategies for long term pandemic control … but that is another story.
Going back to our new normal way in sports: Yes it seems the PBA and PFL are now about to start allowing teams to practice based on the IATF approval. The training of ball clubs shall be limited to conditioning in a “controlled” environment so chances are, players will be allowed to train in groups of 4 or 6 depending on their practice venue limitations. The Talk N Text Tropang Texters are pondering a similar bubble environment set up for their team adapting to what the National Basketball Association (NBA) is doing in Disney.
If we are to follow the queue of the NBA, the PBA and PFL may possibly follow the timelines below:
Week 2 to week 3 July: Player conditioning
Week 4 July to Week 1 August: Team Practices
Week 2 to Week 3 August: Pre Season Scrimmages
Tournament reopening: September week 1
A September reopening is perfect timing especially since people are longing for a semblance of the new normal and opening our favorite sports league on the first day of the “Ber” months would be a welcome treat indeed. The PBA or PFL may not necessarily open up their doors to fans in the stands yet but the sports lovers out there will finally get to see live action on TV. It is kind of tiring to watch replay over the replay of past sporting events and seeing our favorite hardcourt and field heroes would be a ray of sunshine that hopefully can spread good vibes over the country that now ranks second in total COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.
If the PBA and the PFL do it right, meaning minimal to 0 infections during the course of training and reopening their leagues, I expect amateur sports to also start opening which means teams in the UAAP or NCAA could start controlled practices in October, Scrimmages in November and December with a grand opening in January 2021, again in a similar concept: No fans, closed-door games, live TV. The UAAP and NCAA intend to accomplish all sports tournaments in the second semester of this school year.
We expect sports to go back to business as usual in 2021 when, hopefully, a vaccine is finally discovered and manufactured for global deployment and use.
Rising Cases of COVID 19 in Florida
Just when it seems the NBA bubble plan is 100% bulletproof, the surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida put the league’s relaunch plan in question. There are concerns about players opting out, Disney employees that are not “housed” in Disney, the Wide World of Sports’ security, and the assurance it can give the participants that an infection or contamination can be controlled. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, however, is vigilant and confident that the plan is solid.
The 22 teams will start converging to Disney Complex this week to start training in the bubble. The plan is for each of the 22 teams to play 8 games for seeding purposes and start the playoffs late July or early August. There are processes established to keep the environment safe and healthy including daily testing of players and staff, temperature check, and social distancing measures.
The basketball courts were built and customized to reflect home court teams to allow the players some feel of the home-court edge.
I believe the set up of having to play without fans in the stands would benefit the dark horses who do not necessarily rely on the energy of the crowd to win games. One team that stands out to me is the Los Angeles Clippers where the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both two-way players, will most likely benefit without the crowd. Imagine going up against the Los Angeles Lakers in a 7 game playoff without the Laker fans. That is going to be a dream set up for Kawhi and PG13. It is like taking away the sixth man from the game. Let’s see how Lebron James and company adjust to this unfamiliar set up.
I really can’t wait for the playoffs to start and although the momentum of some teams may have been derailed by the pandemic, I am sure most of us are happy to see our NBA heroes back on the floor doing their part with heart and passion to bring sports back to the limelight.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)