On Christmas Day, a well-deserved applause for the ‘other’ team in action
Before the PBA held Christmas Day games, Mich Flores spent the 25th of December with her family, serving in church. Her mother and twin sisters would join her as lectors while her father acts as lay minister.
“Other ministers usually go to their provinces or spend time with family and relatives during Christmas time, so we’re the only ones left,” she said.
Today, the 25th means running social media sites and making sure they keep up with all the basketball action going on.
Willie Marcial, meanwhile, remembers traveling to Batangas to spend time with his family and “sharing drinks with friends” on Christmas Day. Nowadays, he manages traffic inside the press room, tending to the needs of sports journalists. If the game calls for it, Marcial steps on the court to intervene when things go out of hand between teams.
In the Philippine Basketball Association, teams normally get booked for Christmas Day matches if: a. They are Barangay Ginebra, b. They are Barangay Ginebra’s designated foe, or c. They serve as the opening match in a doubleheader featuring Barangay Ginebra.
But there is another team that works on Christmas Day, only its members never make the highlight reel. They do not walk to the court showered in thunderous applause. And neither are there names called out in booming fashion over the public address system.
But they’re out there grinding—for the sake of fans who take time out to spend Christmas Day soaking in the country’s finest basketball brand and, in the case of media bureau staff members Flores and Hazel Ancheta, those who couldn’t make it.
“We cut videos of games that are posted on Instagram,” said Ancheta.
Talk among NBA old-timers is that Red Auerbach didn’t want the Boston Celtics playing on the 25th at home because it deprived arena workers of a chance to spend Christmas with their families.
The PBA office employees have no choice. No matter what team gets assigned to play on Christmas, they show up and make sure operations run smoothly.
“It’s fulfilling because you get to give something back to fans,” said Rouselle Ighot, the league’s in-venue and events officer who supervises activities for sponsors and fans.
Ighot and operations assistant Neil Tibajares miss their old Christmas Day routine, but helping spread holiday cheer more than makes up for that.
“You give up time with your family, but you get to make PBA fans happy,” said Tibajares.
That’s what everyone in Team PBA focuses mostly on: How to help fans maximize their Christmas experience with the league.
“There are a few people who will be sad that I have to work on Christmas Day but compare that to the thousands who become happy because they get to watch the PBA on Christmas Day,” said Ancheta. “If these people choose to spend their Christmas with the PBA, who am I to complain?”
Flores added: “Every time I see families, friends together at Christmas time during games, I feel thankful. In our own small way, we get to bring them together, put smiles on their faces while watching a basketball game.”
It’s this kind of thinking that makes it easy for Team PBA members to endure being away from family on Christmas Day. It is this attitude that helps them work tirelessly to make sure fans enjoy their Dec. 25.
But at the core of that thinking, at the heart of that attitude lies something else.
Imagine: After running around venues making sure fans get to maximize their day in the PBA, ensuring the media gets everything it needs for a seamless coverage, making sure action after breathless action gets posted on social media, Team PBA huddles back to their own dugout with no applause to usher them off the court.
When the lights fade and the cheering is reduced to distant echoes in an empty coliseum, there are no long queues of adoring fans eager hungry for autographs and photo-ops.
And yet, the happiness in their faces is unmistakable. Marcial, the indefatigable communications and external affairs director who is currently the league’s officer-in-charge, understands perfectly why.
“For me, the PBA is no longer work. It’s our passion,” he said. “This is what we want. This is the PBA. What else is there to want?”
As far as Team PBA’s dedication to their passion? Nothing else. —WITH A REPORT FROM RANDOLPH B. LEONGSON