PBA Bubble: Set of obstacles, adjustments for former FEU Tamaraws

FEU Advocate
October 19, 2020 08:30

By Joaquin Luis E. Quesada

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has put the world of sports into a halt for months, but it did not stop the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to create its own ‘bubble’ set up, restarting their 45th season last October 11. 

PBA is camping out at the Quest Hotel and Conference Center in Clark, Pampanga where the entire league will be isolated inside of the bubble, including the medical personnel and media members. Everything from the outside world will be sealed off. 

The Angeles University Foundation (AUF) officially hosted the games and scrimmages, the same location where the arnis, sambo, and wrestling events of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games were held in 2019.

Former members of Far Eastern University (FEU) men’s basketball team Wendelino Comboy and Russel Escoto of San Miguel Beermen, Roger Pogoy of TNT Tropang Giga, Ryan Roose ‘RR’ Garcia Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, Kevin Barkley Eboña of Alaska Aces, and Richard Escoto of Blackwater Elite shared thoughts to FEU Advocate about what is it like to play within the PBA bubble. 

Obstacles in the ‘bubble’ concept

Playing inside of a bubble can be challenging, where one cannot see their families and loved ones in person, every routine in the past will be disregarded due to health protocols that must be followed.

“I think the challenge is malayo ka sa pamilya mo, para kang naka-abroad. ‘Yung routine nag-iba (you are away from your family, it is like you’re in abroad. The routine has changed),” Russel Escoto shared.

Russel’s younger brother, Richard, said that there’s also a challenge “adjusting to being in the bubble” aside from the athletes being far from their loved ones. He then said the next obstacle for him is “getting used to playing basketball again” after months of not having training due to the restrictions of pandemic.

Garcia shared that it was more of a “mental and physical battle,” coming from a six-month break and their practice as a team is relatively short.

It can be recalled that the PBA Board of Governors postponed the 45th season last March 11 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country and the implementation of Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) where mass gatherings are prohibited.

With the implementation of health protocols, everyone must observe social distancing along with wearing a face mask at all times as some of the preventive measures in avoiding the infectious disease.

‘Di mo na pwede gawin ‘yung mga dating magbigay ka ng high five sa [mga] kasama mo, tulungan makatayo ‘pag natumba sila at lalo na sa bench kailangan eh, practice ‘yung social distancing at dapat suot mo ‘yung mask habang ‘di ka pa naglalaro (You cannot do the usual things like giving high five to anyone else, and cannot help someone if they fell, and you should wear a mask even if you are not playing),” Eboña expressed.

Pogoy added, “Una naninibago kasi palagi may social distancing tapos ‘di ka makalapit sa mga kilala mo. Pero nung nagtagal nasanay na. At ang goal namin dito is maglaro naman, hindi magbakasyon (First, we were new to the set up because we must observe social distancing, then, you cannot approach the ones you know. But as time passes by, we are now used to it. And our goal here is to play, not to have a vacation).”

Meanwhile, Eboña said that the everyday rotation of the team’s practice can also be considered a challenge within the new set up.

As he mentioned it, “...so everyday nagbabago ‘yung time of practice namin, minsan may umaga, tanghali at minsan may gabi, so kailangan namin mag-adjust at mag-adapt sa ganitong situation (So everyday, our time of practice changes, sometimes [the schedule is] morning, at noon or at night).”

Spectators no more

Fans has long been recognized to give a boost to any sports team, considering that they can be a game-changer too. However, several leagues, including PBA, have witnessed a major change with its supporters and cheerers not being allowed to watch the game live as the world continues to grapple against the said infection.

Pogoy said, “May impact din ito sa game namin kasi mas nagaganahan kami maglaro ‘pag may mga fans pero ganun talaga dapat masanay kami and mag-adjust kami (They also have impact to the game as well, it motivate us to play if there are fans watching. But, it is what it is, we have to get used to it and adjust to it).”

Malaking bagay sa amin lalo na ‘pag kalaban namin ang Ginebra. Alam naman natin [na] crowd favorite ‘yun, bawas pressure rin [sa’min] (It is a big thing for us, especially if we’re facing [Barangay] Ginebra [San Miguel]. We all know that they are the crowd favorite, it relieves some pressure for us),” Garcia shared.

Even though the spectators are prohibited to watch the games at the AUF, the PBA found a way to let them watch the games virtually, hence, their moniker ‘The Virtual Fans.’ The league entertained them last October 15.

Despite the ‘new normal’ of the sports industry, PBA rookie Richard expressed his excitement playing in the professional league which he considered as an “upside.”

He added, “...and at the same time we get [to] bring joy to the PBA fans na affected din ngayong pandemic (who are also affected by the pandemic).”

The players quickly adapted to the constant changes in the schedule of their training. Inside the bubble means they have more time for themselves, knowing they can rest right after their training.

“We relax and play PS4 [PlayStation 4] and Mobile Legends. We need it because we have training twice-a-day,” Comboy shared.

Moreover, whatever the situation is, it is about getting the job done. Comboy saw no difference in playing inside the bubble as they came in with the “same mission, same intensity, and same goal” mindset when they entered the new setting.

As of posting, TNT Tropang Giga, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and Rain or Shine Elastopainters share a spot atop of standings with 3-0 win-loss slate. PBA bubble was officially announced last September 17.

(File photos from Alexzhis Mark Belga, Marione Paul G. Infantado, Jocas D. Lozada/FEU Advocate)