Have you ever tuned in to a PBA game on TV and wonder why lots of seats are left unoccupied? It doesn’t matter if it’s on a weekday, a Sunday, or the playoffs. It’s almost certain that hundreds, even thousands of seats will be vacant at MOA or at Araneta for the whole game day.
For a country which is figuratively married to basketball, a half-empty arena during PBA games is such an unpleasant sight to see. The league is supposed to be the crown jewel of Philippine hoops. It should be the country’s biggest stage for the best Pinoy ballers to showcase their talents. Yet, small game-day crowds don’t necessarily give that feeling of grandeur.
I believe that now is the time to reinvent the PBA. The league should make efforts in bringing the basketball-crazy mob back to the games. As such, let me put out my suggestions on how the league can draw fans back to the live games once more.
Make the season shorter
To a certain extent, I believe that the televised local collegiate leagues are more exciting to watch than the PBA. It’s not because of the level of talent—I’m pretty sure any PBA team can beat these college kids on a serious basketball game. It’s more about the hype, the feeling of anticipation.
UAAP and NCAA have around 8 to 10 participating teams. The season only lasts for about three to four months, and the schools are playing for only one trophy per year. These collegiate leagues are organized in such a way that if a team loses, then it’ll have to wait until next year for a chance to redeem itself. There’s no ‘rebanse’. You’re done.
I can’t say the same for the PBA. The league has 12 teams, and a season divided into three conferences, which lasts for a total of nine months. Three elimination rounds, three playoffs, and three tries per year to win a title. There’s no downtime, no break to let us fans feel that we are missing something. And at some point, things will get boring for us fans.
Moreover, I believe it lessens the prestige of winning a championship. Losing teams have their next chance after just one to two weeks. The victors don’t have enough time to savor their title.
Maybe it’s time to go back to the old two-conference format. Or maybe, it’s time to drop the multi-conference format altogether in favor of one title per year. Look, I know that the Grand Slam is like the PBA’s Holy Grail, but the league might be better off without it.
Bring the games closer to the fans
If there’s one thing that the PBA can learn from the now-defunct MBA, it’s bringing the games closer to the fans.
Over the past few years, if not decades, arenas within Metro Manila have been the home for PBA games. The league plays out-of-town on a weekly basis, but most of the games are held in the Metro.
It’s time for the league to live up to its name and reach out to every part of the country. The brand caters fans all over the country—not just Metro Manila. There are basketball-crazy people in the provinces who want to see more than just one live PBA game per season. Now might be a good time to tap that market.
To start, I think that the PBA should consider expanding its list of venues. It doesn’t have to be nationwide right away. The league can start doing elimination games at the provinces surrounding Metro Manila on a regular basis. Double-headers may be done on farther arenas instead of just one game.
But, please. Leave the big city venues in favor of the smaller provincial stadiums. There may be less seats to fill, but more fans will have the opportunity to watch live PBA games.
Up the ante on the jersey game
This is a long shot, but hear me out.
I personally like good-looking jerseys. It’s the first thing that I notice in games, especially if I don’t know anyone on the court. I believe that team uniforms are more than just a tool to distinguish the two battling sides on the court from one another. It’s a representation of the team and its identity.
Jerseys can be a great way to attract fans’ attention, both old and new. Which is why nailing the jersey design is an essential part of team’s distinctiveness and likeability. And if you want to be remembered for something, it has to be something good, right?
Unfortunately, it seems like most PBA teams don’t have a particularly attractive jerseys. Most of the time, it’s a case of too much of everything stuffed within a small canvas. Only a few teams like Alaska and Barangay Ginebra look like they got their designs all figured out.
What sets their kits apart from the rest? They ditched the old team-logo-on-the-jersey craze for a simpler, more iconic team-name-on-the-chest design. I think other teams should follow that suit. Sure, a blazing hotdog on wheels looks cool. But nothing is better than a neatly designed jersey. No crowns. No taglines. No flashy gimmicks. Just the product name and the prestige that comes along with it.
And with the right jersey, fans will at least take a look at the team, and it might be a start of a deeper connection between the two.
I’m pretty sure every fan like me has something to pitch for the PBA. And I think it’s important for us to voice out our opinions regarding the league. After all, the league wouldn’t be existing if not for the support of the fans.