At the rate things are going, it looks like only a tightly closed, bubble-type tournament can snatch the Philippine Basketball Association Governor’s Cup out of the doldrums.
A few days after the PBA Board of Governors decided to temporarily postpone all the games and team practices, active COVID-19 cases surged past the 128,000-mark and the numbers have continued to rise.
For the PBA, health is of the optimum importance. But the league must also balance its business side as team owners have continuously paid huge salaries for the newly contracted imports, as well as the local players with live contracts and team personnel. The league’s staff members also receive their salaries non stop.
With all these in mind, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the league should have a ready decision by February on the fate of the current import-laced tournament.
League officials can choose from two major scenarios.
They can go back to the closed-circuit bubble tournament, which they have successfully held in the 2020 and 2021 seasons in two venues in Pampanga. The setup entailed lots of discipline, strict health protocols, and heavy financial resources to implement.
But it worked and is the only set-up allowed by the government through the Games and Amusement Board.
The other choice—in the event that COVID infection rate worsens—is for the league to have the whole tournament canceled.
Any other option or innovation is up to league officials to decide.
For now, according to Marcial, the only way for the PBA to continue is for the COVID-19 infection rate to go down.
“Yan ang tinitingnan namin. Hindi ko maisusugal safety ng mga tao. Sana itong February okay na tayo. Crucial ang February. Siguro dapat magdedesisyon kung anong gagawin sa imports? Made-delay pa ba nating hanggang kung saan?” askedd Marcial during the weekly sports show Chasedown over the weekend.
“Talagang humihingi ako ng pasensiya sa mga fans and teamowners, hindi ko kaya makita na mga players and staff na mahawahan ang kanilang pamilya. ‘Yan ang hindi ko kayang lunukin,” Marcial added.
This means the whole month of January is definitely out of the picture as far as resuming the games is concerned, with officials reassessing the COVID situation by February.
The spike in COVID-19 cases entering the new year proved to be another dampener in the PBA’s 46th season.
The league postponement came at a time when the season-ending meet is beginning to gain momentum.
Just a week after the opener, the league began to bring back fans in the games at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, eventually reaching a peak of close to 5,000, who watched the Christmas Day doubleheader featuring the Magnolia-Barangay Ginebra showdown as its main game.
Two weeks later, games had to be shut down again as COVID-19 active cases in the country reached alarming rates, including a record single-day high of 28,707 registered last Jan. 9.
“Sayang nandu’n na ‘yung momentum. Dire-diretso na sana tayo,” said Marcial.
But consistent with his belief, the PBA chief said he can’t compromise the safety of everyone, from players to the fans.
“Hindi ako manghihinayang kung makakaligtas naman ang lahat. Para sa atin naman ito. Hindi ito ‘yung time na kailangan ng PBA magpa-bida sa ganitong panahon,” added Marcial.