At its heyday in the early '90s, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was the only sports entertainment in town and lorded it over the ratings. Families gathered to watch the games, while fans packed the venues.
I remember early in college, beer joints would be packed if they aired PBA matches.
The entry of the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) dented the numbers somehow, but the league, which branded itself as the Bayan ng mga Superstars to distinguish itself from the fledgling league, survived the challenge.
However, in the past few years, the numbers have dipped again, and it's not just because of the entry of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, which features a more passionate crowd than that found in the PBA. The volleyball scene has also sprouted, competing for TV audience with the league, and then of course there are the latest teleseryes that have gripped the nation and have stolen precious TV time.
There are game days when the crowd in the volleyball leagues are bigger than that of the PBA, something veteran sportswriters have been noting.
Now, if things go as planned, the PBA could have its status back as the lone sports entertainment in town, a silver lining for Asia’s oldest league as it bleeds P30 million a month during the pandemic.
The league has forwarded its protocols to the government for its teams to resume practices as it plans to resume the season in few months, following the NBA format.
If that happens, that will be a welcome break for sports fans weary of replays and documentaries or what-have-you. I think a live PBA game will also be a welcome break for non-sports fans who want a break from the daily Covid-19 numbers or the latest economic meltdown.
I don’t think they’ll allow fans in the matches, but that won’t matter for the league. Though that might hurt their finances, at least having live matches again will allow the teams to recover slightly, a reward for them for keeping the players in the payroll despite not having games since March.
Of course, I hope league officials will have some sense of humor that could help lighten the mood. The baseball league in Korea is using stuffed toys to fill the seats captured by the TV cameras, while another is using mannequins. Surely, we can have something similar should the league resume?
Blown-up photos of fans in the seats next to a couple of frontliners? Why not?