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Opinion

On the bubble

Nick Giongco

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The air had an earthy scent while the leaves rustled on the pavement, scratching and scraping against each other as the cool wind blew to signal the onset of rain.

It was a dreary Sunday when an all-too-familiar name popped on the phone screen.

“How you doing?” said the guy with a thick New York drawl.

The voice belonged to Bob Arum, the Harvard-educated lawyer who heads Top Rank, the promotional outfit he founded in 1966 and which once ran the affairs of Manny Pacquiao.

The caller had been a great source of news the last 15 years for the fellow who was about to write his first column for his new paper.

They had been together during press tour stops across the United States and elsewhere to hype events on board every conceivable mode of transport except for, maybe, a submarine or a hot air balloon.

You see, Arum, 88, is the man behind boxing’s resurgence during the coronavirus era and even before the term “bubble” went viral, he had already been saying it.

Arum’s bubble is located at the sprawling MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he has housed fighters, their trainers, production people and his own staff since June.

So far, Arum has staged 13 shows in seven weeks and is on the verge of coming out with weekly shows beginning next week until October.

“We worked for over two months because nobody had done it before. We had to bring in the public health doctors in Nevada and the athletic commission.”

With everyone’s safety being paramount, Arum said participants are tested up to six times right up until the eve of the fight and told to remain in the bubble, an isolated area inside the MGM Grand that houses everything: The ring, dining and lodging areas and a mini medical center.

By “participants,” Arum meant not just boxers and cornermen but everyone involved in the fight cards: Ring officials, commission personnel and utility workers.

Test results are sent back in four hours, said Arum, who revealed he himself got tested a dozen times.

He spends an average of $350,000 a show and admits he doesn’t have an idea when things will get back to normal.

“What we are planning now until the end of November, there will be fights but without spectators. In December, maybe or maybe not, we can have limited spectators.”

Boxing man Sean Gibbons, closely allied with Pacquiao, shares Arum’s sentiments.

“This coronavirus has wrecked everything and we are looking forward to the day when we can all get back together,” he said.

Given the surge in cases worldwide, Gibbons is close to giving up.

“If we can’t fix it, then God will,” Gibbons said.

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Opinion

Swagger and Filipino athletes

Nick Giongco

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Top Filipino athletes should learn a thing or two on how to conduct themselves while training and competing.

Through the years, typical Filipino athletes, even those who are touted as world-class, tend to be soft-spoken and shy.

Ask them even about the simplest of things, you would likely end up wondering how on earth you will come up with a story.

Here’s a typical convo between a scribe and a Filipino athlete:

Scribe: So how do you see yourself performing this week?

Athlete 1: I will do my best, sir.

Scribe: Uhm… you’ve been a long-time national team member. Do you feel that you will win again since you have been training overseas and have been getting lots of support?

Athlete 1: God-willing, sir. (His right index finger pointing upwards)

Scribe (turning to another athlete): How about you?

Athlete 2: Training was great. But, it’s going to be hard because we feel a lot of pressure performing before hometown fans.

Scribe: First place again?

Athlete 2: I can’t say that. But anything can happen. Depends on the draw.

Scribe: You won the last time and you are the favorite to win your event. Another gold?

Athlete 2: It’s hard to say. I don’t want to predict, but in sports, it is not always about winning but how you play the game. Taking part is already an achievement in itself.

Scribe (looks at the two and stares blankly on his pad and recorder): Okay. Thanks.

So, what seems to be wrong here? The attitude, I guess.

This is precisely one reason why the Philippines has yet to win an Olympic gold all these years.

Winning starts from within.

So, why is Manny Pacquiao great? Again. Attitude.

While Pacquiao doesn’t talk trash, he has provided me countless unforgettable quotes.

One time in San Antonio, Texas, in his first fight with Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, Pacquiao walked inside the hotel room and looked at his manager Rod Nazario.

Pacquiao asked Nazario, slumped on a chair, why he looked nervous.

Nazario snapped back at him: “You are fighting Barrera, that’s why.”

Pacquiao returned fire: “If Barrera wants, we can fight without gloves.”

Instantly, Nazaro’s face glowed, his fears vanishing into thin air.

Here’s another story, this time in Los Angeles for the Erik Morales rematch in Las Vegas. Pacquiao said: “Morales doesn’t give me the creeps.”

Which brings me to Casimero, who just beat up Ghanaian foe Duke Micah few days ago in the United States.

Asked about Micah’s willingness to slug early, Casimero’s eyes lit up.

“He wanted action so I gave him what he wanted and I felt it would be a waste of time if I allow the fight to last long,” he said.

Addressing Japanese icon Naoya Inoue, Casimero then said: “You scared, you Japanese turtle!”

As you see, Filipino athletes need not to mimic Casimero all the way.

But the sad thing is, Filipino athletes have opted to keep silent and be glad with merely participating.

How many times have we heard them say, “At least I was able to go to the Asian Games or to the Olympics.”

Perhaps, it’s all because we were not brought up to be vocal and boastful.

Mind you, taking something from the mindset of Pacquiao and Casimero will go a long way. It builds up confidence, something that fires you up into reaching a goal.

Many of those who barely say a word are often the vanquished, the guy who gets knocked out and the poor chap whose only time to sweat is during the round robin.

It’s rather heartbreaking to keep on hearing them sound as if they are competing in a beauty pageant.

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Opinion

LeBron for Kobe

I think this is about winning for Kobe — for his family, for his community, and for his team.

Enzo Flojo

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I have to admit, I had my reservations on LeBron James leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the Finals of the National Basketball Association (NBA) bubble in Florida.

The Lakers tumbled up and down in their NBA bubble games before settling into a groove in the Playoffs.

I thought for sure that Damian Lillard’s Trailblazers would push the Lakers to at least six games in the first round. I also felt that the Houston Rockets should have played better against James and the Lakers in the second round, and I really expected the Denver Nuggets to not go down in five in the Western Conference Finals.

Alas, here we are. LeBron will play in his ninth NBA Finals in the last ten years, leading the Lakers as they set their sights on netting championship banner No. 17.

I am not the biggest Lebron fan out there, and it will take much more for me to consider him the Greatest of All Time. Still, one couldn’t help but marvel at how James has been so consistently successful at reaching the Finals practically year in and year out.

He first did it when this was still a big man’s game in 2007 against the San Antonio Spurs when. He notoriously continued to do it in the superteam era with the Miami Heat, and is still at it even in this time when analytics-driven pace-and-space is the du jour style of play.

LeBron has literally transcended eras in the NBA’s ultramodern existence.

Think about it from a global business perspective: When LeBron first qualified for the NBA Finals, Wal-Mart was still the world’s biggest company.

When Miami’s Big Three finally won its first title in 2012, Facebook just acquired Instagram for $1 billion.

LeBron broke the curse in Cleveland in the same year the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Now, however, in a potentially dramatic but poetic turn of events, LeBron is favored to give the Lakers another title months after the demise of legendary Laker, global basketball ambassador, and his close friend, Kobe Bryant.

For me, that seems to be what’s silently driving LeBron in the postseason.

I mean, of course he cares about title No. 4. I’m sure he would want to increase his NBA Finals winning percentage, continue to chase Michael Jordan’s legacy, and he would love to give Anthony Davis a ring.

But at LeBron’s core, I think this is about winning for Kobe — for his family, for his community, and for his team.

This is, after all, something he referenced after closing out the Nuggets in Game 5.

“Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his (Bryant) legacy and what he meant to this franchise for 20-plus years. That drive to always want to be victorious, it stops you from sleeping. You sacrifice a lot of things. You sacrifice your family at times because you’re so driven to be so great that other things fall by the wayside at times. I understand that. I’m one of the few that can understand the mindset that he played.”

Outside of his years in Cleveland, I don’t really root for LeBron in the Finals, but that may just change this year — for Kobe.

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Opinion

Gentleman’s game

Julius Manicad

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I have been playing golf regularly the past couple of months and one of the lessons I picked up in my new sport is that it is a gentleman’s game.

More than serving as poetry in motion with that smooth swing and picture-perfect follow through in every drive, golf will really test your resolve, especially when things — and your scores — are going wrong.

It is a rollercoaster of emotions.

You may find yourself celebrating after a long, beautiful putt only to crash in the following hole as soon as you see your ball going straight into water hazard.

But as seasoned golfers would say: Never lose your composure.

Whatever happens, always stay focused — both on your shots and on your scores.

If it’s a double bogey, it’s a double bogey. No excuses. You have to accept it and move on to the next hole like a true gentleman.

You would rather lose with dignity than win through cheating.

That’s why I find it odd to learn that the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group are looking into a so-called golf tournament organized by the Alabang Club 515 at the posh Alabang Country Club (ACC) on 28 and 29 August.

Sure, there are a lot of club-organized golf tourneys like the Golden Tee, Bill Shaw and Mango Tee, but I believe the 14th Pemcor Cup, as what the Club 515 event was called, doesn’t share any similarity since it was done amid the coronavirus pandemic.

I obtained a copy of the club’s letter to other ACC members and I can say that what they did was not an official tournament but was just a mere fun game, similar to what me and my golf buddies do every Sunday.

There was clearly no breach of health and safety protocols since golf is one of the physical activities allowed under the general community quarantine.

For one, Club 515 members didn’t block off their preferred schedule and play simultaneously like what ordinary golf tournaments do. Since not everybody got their slots, some 56 players teed off on Saturday while 20 other golfers played the day before.

Yes, they took photos without their masks, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. After all, that’s also what we usually do before we tee off; we remove our masks and show our pearly whites in front of the camera for our wives to recognize us and know that that we are playing golf and not somewhere else.

Everybody was wearing masks during flights.

In fact, marshals were said to be going around, making sure that everybody was observing health and safety protocols. Fortunately, no member of the club was cited for any violation while playing.

Club 515 members also maintained their social distancing.

Although a club member was celebrating his birthday on that day, there was no party or catered food as he just placed packed lunches in the veranda for his friends to pick up before hopping into their cars.

The most they did was a virtual party.

Again, it was attended by only 10 people with the rest — all 46 of them — joining the celebration through Zoom application.

Honestly, I don’t see the Pemcor Cup as a violation.

Instead, of trying to play the role of a policeman, the IATF and JAO group should carefully review their policies and clearly define an official tournament from a fun game.

Unlike contact sports like basketball, volleyball, football or boxing, golf is being played in open spaces with maximum social distancing in every flight. It can be played even with masks on and without touching anything other than the ball and your clubs.

As I’ve said, golf is a gentleman’s game.

I believe members of Club 515 are all gentlemen and will not risk their statures — and their lives — just to hold an unlawful tournament.

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Opinion

Lessons from PBA

Instead of going after golf clubs and members for protocol violations, they should instead sit down and listen to stakeholders on how to resume tournaments safely, like what the PBA did.

Rey Bancod

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The good news is that the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is finally resuming on 11 October under the “bubble” in Clark, Angeles.

After months of reading and watching reports about the number of coronavirus cases, Filipino fans get a reprieve by counting baskets instead.

Kudos to Commissioner Willie Marcial, who despite his seemingly happy-go-lucky persona, gets the job done.

I had no doubt that if there’s any organization that can bring back sports activities in the country, it is the PBA.

It is run by people with passion for sports, not to mention deep pockets.

The cost of running a “bubble” tournament is no peanuts. Housing and feeding 350 people, including support staff for two months is no joke.

That’s the only first part of the challenge.

To convince them to stay inside the bubble, away from their families is another thing.

That entails a huge sacrifice for everyone, including our media colleagues who will be “incarcerated” for two months.

There is more at stake than just the resumption of the country’s biggest sports entertainment.

The future of other sporting events is on the line as well.

There are few amateur sports that have been allowed to be played under the coronavirus pandemic, but none is allowed to hold tournaments.

It is a pity because sports plays a big part in promoting health among the people, yet officials could not find ways to safely organize tournaments.

Worse, they are the ones stopping initiatives to restart activities, particularly in golf clubs.

Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the national COVID-19 task force, said the PBA was given provisional authority because its health measures are strict and stringent than that of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group, which is composed of the Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Health and Games and Amusement Board.

If that is not an indictment, I don’t know what is.

In its zeal and enthusiasm to enforce protocols, the JAO group may have forgotten its most important objective: Help get sports back on its feet.

Lately, JAO is busy looking into alleged tournaments held in golf clubs, as if members have committed a capital crime.

Instead of going after golf clubs and members for protocol violations, they should sit down and listen to stakeholders on how to resume tournaments safely, like what the PBA did.

Sports without competition is like driving a Ferrari on EDSA during rush hour.

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Opinion

Pampanga bubble

Enzo Flojo

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No doubt inspired by the successful bubble model introduced by the National Basketball Association (NBA), our very own Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has finally decided to resume its season by holding a bubble at the Clark Freeport and Economic Zone in Pampanga.

For now, what we can expect is for the PBA to hold what it calls a compressed All-Filipino conference, which is slated to begin in early October.

All 12 PBA squads will see action and will all stay in a single hotel inside the former Clark Air Base in Angeles, Pampanga. In all, the bubble is expected to last around two months.

That Clark was chosen is not so surprising since the 2019 Southeast Asian Games were held in nearby New Clark City, but the PBA games will actually be held at the Angeles University Foundation Gym.

Based on reports, the PBA has chosen a daily double-header schedule in an effort to fit all games in the compressed conference.

They project 49 game days in the bubble as they follow a single round-robin elimination format with the top eight squads advancing to the quarterfinals, where the top four teams in the eliminations enjoy twice-to-beat edges.

The two semifinal series will be best-of-five affairs and then we’ll see a full best-of-seven final series for the title.

With that format, we can have a maximum of 91 games — 66 in the eliminations, eight in the quarterfinals, 10 in the semis, and seven in the finals.

One interesting wrinkle of the bubble is that the PBA will hit quarantine and health protocol violators with a P100,000 fine and an automatic one-month suspension without pay.

The PBA estimates more than 300 people to be in the bubble, from the team members like players, coaches, and managers to league officials, technical staff, medical personnel, and media.

The bubble won’t be an easy thing to manage, and I wouldn’t be shocked if hiccups here and there pop up.

Having said that, I applaud the PBA for taking initiative and putting the league’s fate in its own hands instead of waiting even longer. I’m always up for a proactive approach, and that’s how I see this move.

I just hope they will really be strict with their protocols and pull off this bubble without many — or any — major hitches.

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Opinion

Trashy training videos

Nick Giongco

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How I wish that some Filipino athletes wound up getting stuck in a foreign land, say the United States or elsewhere, when the worldwide lockdown took effect last March.

Why is that so?

It’s simply because those who found themselves unable to return here are the ones doing well in training.

Case in point is Italy-based pole vaulter EJ Obiena, the first Filipino to earn a berth to the Tokyo Olympics.

The 6-foot-2 Obiena has been busy winning medals in prime European tournaments that he has become a leading candidate to earn Athlete of the Year honors from the Philippine Sportswriters Association for year 2020 that is, if the PSA decides to hold an awards night.

World champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, another Tokyo qualifier, is in Japan, where cases of the coronavirus have stabilized a bit. Under the watchful eyes of a Japanese coach, Yulo’s buildup, while not exactly on target, is progressing well.

Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz is in Kuala Lumpur and in the thick of training as well after authorities relaxed safety protocols.

The only things that bother Diaz are her loved ones back home in Zamboanga City given the alarming coronavirus situation.

But generally, things seem to be fine over in Malaysia as Diaz regularly gets to work out in bidding to join Obiena and Yulo and two others on the list of qualifiers.

Those who are here have been reduced to sending out videos to their respective national sports associations showing that they are somehow working out.

At first, the idea of athletes training while on lockdown sounded like a novel idea.

But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks became months, it is now apparent that letting them to train all by themselves appears foolish.

Without the right facilities and their trainers unable to study their every move, they tend to just go through the motions.

Take the case of the boxing team.

After their stint in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifying in Amman, Jordan early-March, Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno proceeded to their respective homes.

Marcial went to Imus, Cavite, Magno returned to Iloilo and other pugs who failed to make the Olympic grade likewise reunited with their families in the provinces.

Marcial even tried his hand in salting dried fish and planting while Magno helped out in the rice field and another teammate moonlighted as a stevedore.

Apart from Marcial and Magno, other solid Olympic candidates include Carlo Paalam, Rogen Ladon, Ian Clark Bautista and James Palicte and female world champion Nesthy Petecio.

Boxing secretary general Ed Picson is currently working to convince the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to allow a select number of boxers to set up camp.

In an online meeting with Tokyo Olympics chief of mission Nonong Araneta, Picson reiterated his desire to recall the boxers and coaches back to Manila.

Still, Picson will not go to the extent of gathering them in a secluded area so they could start training similar to what a collegiate cage coach recently did.

Picson said Plan A is for them to return to their old gym at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex “since it has everything.”

But Picson insists safety remains paramount but will nonetheless submit to Araneta the cost of setting up a bubble for boxing.

In the meantime, boxing and all the other sports other than professional basketball and football are wishing that the IATF takes the time to heed their call.

As you see, all the IATF has to do is look at Obiena to know the athletes’ plight.

To make a dent in Tokyo, Filipino athletes must start getting back in shape.

Enough of those silly workout videos.

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Opinion

Ode to Jimmy

I am sad that Jimmy has left the Philippines, but he said it himself that this is not goodbye.

Enzo Flojo

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Jimmy Alapag and his family already left the Philippines.

That’s not supposed to hit hard. I mean, a lot of people leave this country whether it’s for work, vacation or, well, for good.

But Jimmy’s departure stings because this a man who has played, bled and fought for this country’s pride whether it’s on or off the basketball court.

Jimmy has become a symbol of the Philippines, at least in the realm of sports and popular culture.

His exploits in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and perhaps more importantly for the national team have raised him to iconic status.

Even his foes from around the continent have recognized his impact not just on Philippine basketball, but in Asian hoops in general.

I remember the first time I heard about Jimmy Alapag.

It was in 2002. I was still in university then, closely following the developments connected to the national basketball team as they prepared for the 2002 Busan Asian Games, yes, those Asian Games where South Korea’s Lee Sang-Min broke all Filipino hearts.

Ugh, it still hurts.

Anyway, back then, people were wondering about who would play alongside Olsen Racela as the national team’s back-up playmaker.

I remember De La Salle University floor general Mike Cortez was someone a lot of people wanted in the mix. I remember other names were also being floated like Jayjay Helterbrand, of course, Johnny Abarrientos, and even Gherome Ejercito.

That was when I first heard about Jimmy.

I recall that the national pool under Jong Uichico invited Jimmy to try out for the team after the latter finished his playing years at California-State Bernardino, which if I’m not mistaken was in the Division 2 of the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Despite not being a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player yet and having his papers still sorted out by the Department of Justice, Jimmy was in the mix to be part of the team headed for the Asian Games.

Who was this guy anyway?

No way he was as good as Cortez or Abarrientos or the leading candidate to be Racela’s backcourt partner, Noy Castillo, right?

I caught a glimpse of Jimmy scrimmaging at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center n Ateneo on one random day, and one could already see that he had the makings of a special player.

We all know about Jimmy’s shooting prowess and his speed, but I remember getting surprised by his spring and his ability to see the floor and facilitate the offense — things you don’t usually see on highlight reels or commonly hear from a lot of observers.

Sure, he was new and young and maybe chemistry was an issue with the seasoned PBA veterans, but it was crystal-clear that Jimmy could hold his own.

Until now, I wonder about whether he would have made a big difference had he been part of the Busan Asiad squad? Maybe we would have beaten Korea? Maybe we would have placed on the podium? Who knows, right?

It took Jimmy five more years before he finally wore the Philippines’ colors in a formal, official FIBA tournament, but once he did, he lit up the scoreboard and made magic happen.

Jimmy first suited up for the national team in 2007, and I remember that squad with fondness.

They beat a complete Iran team coached by Rajko Toroman in the 2007 Jones Cup and should have made it past the first round in the 2007 FIBA Asia Cup in Tokushima, but losses to “lower-seeded” sides Jordan and Iran gave us the boot despite beating China for after what seemed like forever.

Since then, Jimmy has been somewhat of a mainstay in the national team.

He missed the 2009 squad that finished outside of the Top 8 before returning in 2011, 2013, and 2014.

After the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, which was a bit of a disaster, Jimmy retired from playing international basketball, pretty much handing the playmaking reins to the likes of Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo and Kiefer Ravena.

In retrospect, Jimmy didn’t have a very long international career, at least when ranged against the likes of other Asian legends like Fadi El Khatib, Hamed Haddadi, Yaseen Musa, Korea’s Hur Jae, or Japan’s Takehiko Orimo, but his impact was still very strong and meaningful.

Like many, if not all of his fans, I am sad that Jimmy has left the Philippines, but he said it himself that this is not goodbye.

He will return one day to continue helping Philippine basketball, and that promise is enough of a silver lining to keep buoying our spirits up in these trying times.

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Opinion

Sports vaccine

Julius Manicad

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The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is doing the country a favor by restarting its aborted season.

In these trying times, having basketball back in our living rooms is exactly what we need.

It is some sort of an escape from the harsh reality brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Seeing LA Tenorio slashing right into the heart of the defense somehow makes us forget our sick and dying loved ones or watching Paul Lee delivering those ankle-breaking dribbles makes us smile despite losing our jobs or having significant cuts in our paychecks.

Basketball is therapeutic.

How many times have we seen the PBA entertain us during the darkest chapters in our history?

Let us not forget that the heated rivalry between Crispa and Toyota amused us, prompting young players to imitate the elegant shots of Ramon Fernandez and the sweet jumpers of Atoy Co instead of worrying about curfews and reports of massive corruption.

The emergence of Ricky Brown and the fabled Northern Consolidated Cement squad also served as our escape from the economic and political impact brought by the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and EDSA Revolution, similar to how the fast and furious tandem of Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa made us ignore the countless news about natural calamities, crimes and the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada.

Simply put, the return of the PBA in this time of pandemic will bring a semblance of normalcy into our lives.

It will bring back a lot of happy memories, transporting us back to the days when we can easily hop into an MRT just to watch a blockbuster game between Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel Beer with no mask, no quarantine pass or temperature-checking required.

The PBA moved heaven and earth just to restart the season.

For a league that is losing around P30 million every month due to the pandemic, spending a cool P65 million to house a delegation of 350 people from 12 teams in a three-star hotel for two months would definitely burn a hole in its wallet.

Worst, it has no choice, but to accept the fact that it would not be getting a single cent from ticket sales since it would be holding the games in a closed-door venue to make sure that nobody would be at risk of contracting the virus.

With no ticket sales to bank on, the league would draw bulk of its revenue from broadcast coverage and other forms of advertising like that from its digital coverage.

But — believe me — the revenue would barely be enough to make a decent profit. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the bubble expenses would definitely be far greater than what the league is about to earn.

From a business standpoint, the bubble is a suicide mission, especially for a league that already bled P180 million for six months of stoppage.

But the PBA is determined to bring back the games. At this point, profit is no longer an issue.

All the PBA is thinking of right now is how to provide entertainment — a sports vaccine — to countless of basketball-crazy Filipinos who are suffering the devastation brought by the pandemic.

It is hoping that Tenorio’s strong drive to the hole or Lee’s killer crossover would somehow bring smile to their faces and wash away their anxieties even for just a while.

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Opinion

Tricky chess puzzle

Will players be signed into long-term contracts just like in the Philippine Basketball Association?

Rey Bancod

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Chess players welcome the formation of a professional league that its founders hope will provide steady income and a bright future for full-time aficionados.

I have no idea where they got the inspiration, but the closest I could think of would be the Chess Bundesliga, Germany’s premier league established in 1980.

But unlike the newly-formed Professional Chess Association of the Philippines (PCAP), Bundesliga is open to players of all ages and nationalities.

A number of Filipino players, in fact, have taken part in the league usually held between October and April.

Since the PCAP sought the approval and sanction of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), players are required to secure GAB licenses.

Are minors eligible to get GAB licenses? It’s hard to answer the question since for the longest time, chess players do not need GAB licenses to ply their trade.

Apparently to skirt the issue, the PCAP did not include junior players as one of the categories in the composition of the team.

The six-man squad only requires two masters, a female and senior player and a pair of homegrown talents.

The PCAP, under Commissioner Paul Elauria, offered little details except to say that a draft is set to be held next month and the target opening date is next year.

Twelve teams, all of them local government units, have reportedly joined the league.

Since obviously the tournament mechanics are still being drafted, the PCAP will hopefully address the issue of players’ compensation and its relationship with the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

Will players be signed into long-term contracts just like in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)? Or will it just be a one-tournament deal?

Following the PBA example, will players be restricted to compete in other tournaments outside the PCAP?

Will PCAP under the umbrella of the NCFP or will go the way of the defunct Professional Chess Association (PCA)?

To the uninitiated, the PCA was formed in 1993 by Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short who broke away from FIDE, the world’s governing body, to organize their own world championship series.

The PCA folded up three years later after losing its sponsors and its members reconciling with FIDE.

Then there is the issue of players getting monthly allowances from the Philippine Sports Commission.

If they turn pro and secure GAB licenses, will they lose their membership in the national pool?

A tricky chess puzzle indeed, but we pray we can find the right solution.

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