Call this as a second coming, or a repeat performance, an anomaly even, but let me say that I am thankful that I am back as a sports columnist, with the same old title, thanks to Riera Mallari, sports ed of Manila Standard.
But before I got swayed by my emotions, let us dive into the topic at hand, which is summed up by the very title of today’s column (and hopefully, every week thereafter).
Yes, the pandemic, which crept its way into our consciousness way back in March 2020, is an insidious, invasive affair, and still is, and has undoubtedly affected our way of life – from the way we work, and even to the way we play. It even changed us on how we deal with each other, that is, from a distance.
Sports, like other aspects of our lives, at first was at a loss on how to adapt, ride the tide of the new disease and even flourish amid the new challenges.
Infection, after all is real, and report of deaths in hospitals and elsewhere, especially among frontliners, did not help ease the anxiety that we all feel. The fear brought by the pandemic is also real and could freeze us into inaction, even paralysis.
Thankfully, our athletes and sports organizations refuse to cower in fear, and instead fought back, at least, to regain some measure of normalcy.
Yes, the masks, the face shields, the washing of the hands, and disinfection have become the norm for practically most people, but all these did not deter our athletes from going on with their lives and to still stay relevant amid the crisis.
The Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, the sports governing bodies in the country, certainly tried their best to keep their organizations afloat despite the limitations of interaction between athletes and coaches, and between athletes and their audience.
Sports equals action, and the one missing component in sports competitions since the onslaught of the pandemic is the crowd support for or against a certain team or athlete. Basketball, volleyball and boxing, for instance, need a crowd to get the adrenaline going, energize the athlete or a team, and electrify the stadium, not to mention that crowd equals more ticket sales for organizers.
Organizers, however, have found a way to somehow stay in the thick of the fight, and came up with a new concept—the bubble. The ‘bubble’ is an NBA concept where the teams play on but with certain number of limitations dictated by accepted health protocols. Thus ‘bubble’ games only have athletes, officials and organizers watching and supevising the games. In short, crowd support has become practically non-existent.
Other sports—and organizations—following the NBA example, has adopted the ‘bubble’ concept. The PBA, for instance, had its own bubble, as do other leagues.
Which brings us to another point. In the absence of the crowd and the limitations of physical contact, sports has relied on digital technology to get the message —and the action—across. With less tournaments, less live action, sports officials try to stay relevant with pocket, digital tournaments and discussions on how their organizations and their athletes cope with the times. (Next Friday: Part II of Sports and the pandemic)
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