FROM the outside, everything seems to be fine for all the teams inside the PBA bubble in Pampanga.
It is an enemy lurking from the inside that concerns Commissioner Willie Marcial as he tries to make sure the players’ mental health is taken cared of while they are going through the unique experience.
“Isang buwan pinakamaigsi, pero hanggang dalawang buwan ka sa loob ng bubble. Either way, siguradong may maapektuhan sa utak ng mga iyan,” Marcial told Malaya-Business Insight.
“Sana ma-address namin iyon in the next couple of days,” he added.
During their recent appearance on the 2OT webcast, Magnolia’s Paul Lee and NLEX’s Kiefer Ravena expressed concerns about boredom and anxiety and both asserted the bubble would be a severe test of mental toughness.
“Of course, mentally it could be draining,” said Ravena. “You’re confined in an area na hanggang doon ka lang talaga. ‘Di ka makakalabas, walang pasyal. You’ll see the same faces mostly all the time.”
“Una, baka siguro makaka-apekto dito, ‘yung routine mo mababago. Like, ‘di ka matutulog sa sarili mong kama, ‘di mo kasama ang family mo. ‘Yun ang mabigat doon,” said Lee.
“Siguro dito, more on mental ang mangyayari. Lalo na kapag naglaro ka, nagkaroon ka ng bad game, ‘yung schedule natin ngayon, every other day, so kailangan matuto kang makalimutan mo kaagad ‘yun and prepare for the next game,” added Lee.
It has been generally smooth for the teams as they became accustomed to their accommodations at the Quest Hotel inside the 200-hectare Clark Freeport and practice facilities at the nearby Angeles University Foundation gym.
Since checking in last week, the players, coaches and other team personnel have been introduced to the hotel’s game rooms, swimming pool, and golf course.
The players have also been doing what they can to entertain themselves with some of them, like Ravena, bringing along their gaming consoles.
Marcial bared that TV5 is planning to put more gaming consoles in the hotel for the players, but strict compliance to social distancing must be followed.
“Bawal magkumpulan,” warned Marcial.
The same should also hold true during movie nights the PBA plans to hold at least twice a week for the duration of the bubble.
For the moment, occupying the players’ time and thoughts are the daily full contact scrimmages that started last Thursday and being used by all the teams to be in the best shape possible before the games resume Sunday at the fourth floor of the AUF gym building.
Defending champion San Miguel Beer won over Magnolia 94-78 on opening day March 8 before the league was forced to shut down three days later by the coronavirus pandemic.
Through a daily doubleheader the PBA hopes to finish the eliminations by Nov. 11 and have a champion declared by Dec. 15 at most.
Lee expects their entire stay within the bubble to feel like a seemingly interminable process, stretched by all those free times in-between games and practices.
“Alam mo ‘yung sobrang sama ng laro mo tapos ikaw lang sa loob ng kwarto? ‘Yun ang mabigat, ‘yun ang mental,” said Lee.
“Kasi madali kung and’yan tayo sa normal life. May laro ka sa PBA at sobrang sama ng laro mo talaga. Pag-uwi mo, end of the day, makakasama mo family mo, makakalimutan mo ‘yung game. Pero ito sobrang hirap nito for sure.”