Oct 1, 2020

The Extended Quarantine Period Puts Sports in Limbo

Major League Baseball has canceled spring training, the time where teams start to prepare for the regular-season run.

The United States (US) and the Philippines have extended the countries’ quarantine periods practically through the end of April 2020 keeping major sporting leagues in limbo.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) still has not decided whether to cut the eliminations and go straight to a shortened version of the playoffs or completely cancel the 2019-2020 season altogether. Practices have not resumed for all NBA teams like the US reels from the surge of the covid19 spread in the country. The NBA is the major professional sports league in the US that is heavily impacted by the pandemic. Their season was suspended when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus in early March.

Major League Baseball has canceled spring training, the time where teams start to prepare for the regular-season run. The National Football League is on their offseason period so not much impact on them yet… that is unless the spread continues throughout the year.

It’s the NBA that got hit smack at the time when the regular season is just about to hit the finishing leg. The expected revenue loss is so huge that insiders are estimating that the cost could be an equivalent to a $10 Million USD reduction in team salary caps next year. The basis of calculating salary caps in the league is its revenue attainment. Canceled games and venue bookings, ticket sale refunds, the inability to publish games on television/ cable or internet all add up to the compounded woes of the league. Each teams’ preparation for this season seems to be going down the drain the longer the quarantine goes.

If the US National Government decides to soften the quarantine procedures on May 1, the NBA needs to act fast. Seems like they do have a plan to make a short playoff run ala Summer League format where all playoffs teams converge to one place, no audience, and do a knockout playoff-type basketball to judge the winner of this season. Not ideal but it’s a way for the league to earn back some revenue out of the huge projected losses this year.

Meanwhile, our very own Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), has not completely lost this season yet. They paused play after opening night in March and has since supported the local government’s mandate on stay home orders. The PBA, unlike the NBA, has a 3 conference season format. The league is now pondering to follow the footsteps of former commissioner Noli Eala to reduce the format to 2 conferences: the All Filipino and Reinforced Conferences due to the impact of the enhanced quarantine period in place in Luzon.

I have been writing about the PBA season and of the fact that 3 conferences make a very long format for a professional league like this. The players play and practice all year long save for a one month break in-between seasons. Players hardly recover in this kind of playing calendar and injuries happen to stars who also happen to be part of the national roster (e.g. Junemar Fajardo).

Even without the pandemic, the PBA should have thought about shortening the season to allow for better rest periods in between conferences and more optimal performance from the athletes whether it be in the PBA or serving the national cause or both.

If the PBA is concerned about total tickets, games committed and live air time they are contracted to do, the two conference format can be a double round affair to make the total games played equivalent to a three conference format. Even if the total game or match count is equivalent to the total of the three conference set up, the players would still have ample rest between conferences and between seasons. I’m estimating that at the very least, the players would have a 2 month period to rest before the next training camp opens.

If the PBA season continues after the extended quarantine period, here’s how the format and calendar would seem to look:

May 2020: teams get back to training camp (they lost a few weeks of workout)

April to July: All Filipino Conference
August: mid season break

September to December: Reinforced Conference

After this season ends, we expect January to February as off season while training camps open in March. To me that would be ideal for PBA players to rest their bodies and preserve themselves for the long haul. The move to go back to the dual conference set up, would be best, not just for the players but for the fans as well.

Easter Fun

Off topic but you know due to the quarantine mandate, fun events such as easter egg hunting can’t do with the rules in place nowadays however, in my wife’s hometown of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, yours truly has an annual egg hunting tradition. With the limitations due to the stay at home orders, we decided to do a virtual egg hunting program for the kids so we don’t break off the annual event. We have created drawings and planted eggs on them for kids to “hunt”. We intend to use social media in the submission of forms from all the kids we will invite. We expect this to be a fun alternative against the real backyard search. Hey who says we can’t enjoy time and remember the message of easter amidst the covid pandemic?

Stay home, stay safe everyone.

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

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