MANILA, Philippines – One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the cancelation of sporting events, big and small, around the globe.
Realistically speaking, how long will it take before fans can start anticipating the return of their favorite sporting competition?
Here’s some context:
Mark Cuban, team owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has expressed optimism that the NBA can return in June if “things go our way.”
The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled originally in July 2020, has been postponed to next year.
In our local landscape, the UAAP has canceled the remainder of Season 82, and it’s fair to already question whether Metro Manila will be ready to hold live sporting events with crowd attendance in time for the opening of Season 83 in September.
Such is the effect of the current period we live in, which is unprecedented.
So much so that the PBA has already announced the shortening of its season to two conferences. However, that can still go down to just one conference, or an outright cancelation, according to commissioner Willie Marcial.
What kind of timeframe are we looking at here, exactly?
There could be an answer to that question once the extended quarantine comes to an end on April 30, assuming it is not extended even further by the President.
As of right now, there are more questions than answers.
Ven Ponce is a medical intern at the Philippine General Hospital. When her required time to help as a frontliner was completed, she stayed on as a volunteer to help fight the pandemic.
She works a total of 24 hours in a three-day span. Afterwards, she is required to undergo one week of isolated quarantine as a precautionary measure. That includes staying away from family.
Ven holds a black belt in taekwondo, tested softball and badminton, and was part of the University of the Philippines’ frisbee team. A sports fan, she’s well-aware of the amount of people required to make a sporting event come to life, from the players, to the coaches, to technical support, media, fans, and so on.
And that makes it difficult for her to see a scenario where live sporting events can be held anytime soon.
“After the lifting of the imposed enhanced community quarantine, life as we know it cannot immediately return to normal as we would still need measures to blunt the spread of COVID even after we begin to see downward trends in the disease curve,” she said in an interview.
“Unfortunately for the avid fans, I believe it is unlikely to be able to attend live sporting events in the near future.”
From a financial perspective, there is going to be a dip in revenue for sports leagues that will lose money not just on live attendance, but as well as on television.
There has been talk, especially from sports leagues abroad, about holding games and matches without fans. As of posting time, there has been no inclination from the UAAP or PBA about following such route, as the two take a wait-and-see approach until the lifting of the quarantine.
Ven still sees potential issues with that idea.
“A lot of the sports we enjoy – whether contact or non-contact – still carry an increase risk of disease transmission, especially as COVID is spread primarily through respiratory droplets; think of sports which are physically exhausting causing the players to pant,” she said.
“There is an even greater risk for cross infection of the disease when an object – ‘fomite’ in the medical context – is transferred from one person to another, as in most of the popular sports in the Philippines.”
If events without fans are held, it’s clear making sure every participant is free of the virus will be mandatory.
As we live in the in-between of watching the sports we enjoyed and what they will look like when it’s safe to play again, a number of leagues have taken to providing media content for its fans quarantined at home.
For instance, the NBA has been streaming classic games on its YouTube channel, while old UAAP matches have been televised on ABS-CBN’s Sports and Action.
“As much as I miss the playing field, I do think that at this point we need to explore enjoying sports through other avenues such as reliving old games, conceptualizing new strategies, and generally building camaraderie which is a big aspect that binds us to the game,” said Ven.
“As of now the government has not released criteria for withdrawing its quarantine and social distancing measures so there’s no telling at this time when things could return to normal,” she continued.
“For those athletes experiencing cabin fever, know that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and it is okay not to be 100% at this point. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health so don’t lose sight of the other things that give you joy.”
The way this frontliner sees it, we are all currently on the same team, battling the same opponent, doing what we have to for the same thing.
“We are all players in the most gripping and nerve-wracking game: the battle against COVID-19. Now more than ever, we need teamwork to get the W.” – Rappler.com