KICKS OFF ARENABOWL
August 15, 2013
By Jim Abbott

For starters, Gene Simmons and Klaw look like they both go to the same tailor. Yet the same taste in wardrobe by the Kiss bassist and the Orlando Predators mascot isn't the only reason that the veteran arena-rock band and the Arena Football League are meant to be together.

When Kiss play their role as the league's de facto rock ambassadors with a Friday concert at Amway Center, the band will consummate a marriage made in pop-culture heaven. The show will unfold on the eve of Saturday's ArenaBowl XXVI.

Not since John Fogerty ensured a sound bite in every respectable seventh-inning stretch in baseball with his 1985 song "Centerfield" has a musical act been such a perfect match to a sport.

Consider:

The Arena League likes to blow things up. So does Kiss.

•The Arena League is willing to bypass the boring stuff for touchdowns, touchdowns, touchdowns on its shortened 50-yard indoor field with the walls ideal for player collisions. With the exception of the maudlin ballad "Beth," Kiss won't make fans wait to rock out.

•The Arena League has faced its occasional battles for respect, with its rosters of not-yet-NFL-caliber athletes and fading NFL stars such as former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Shaun King. Likewise, Kiss has endured its share of arrows from the critics:

"Kiss still lacks that flash of creative madness that could have made their music interesting, or at least listenable," stated a 1976 Rolling Stone review of "Destroyer," the band's first platinum album.

•Both the band and the league are survivors. The guys in Kiss — original members Simmons and Paul Stanley, and additions Eric Singer (drums) and Tommy Thayer (guitar) — are celebrating the band's 40th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Arena Football league marked its 25th anniversary in 2012, a milestone unapproachable by other alternative football leagues, including the one-season failure of the WWE honcho Vince McMahon's XFL in 2001.

For the Arena League, Kiss offers the potential of new fans that might be culled from the worldwide Kiss Army. When the band was recruited to be part of this season's marketing campaign, members did more than incorporate a new song, "Right Here, Right Now," as theme of weekly televised games on cable's CBS Sports Network.

There's a gridiron feel to the song's lyrics — "Got a chance to break and run with the ball, get up when you fall" — even if success in the pass-happy Arena League isn't usually built on a solid running game.

"Before the season started, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and the rest of the guys in the band were in Australia, but they shot all types of video footage to promote the league," says Anthony Herron, the league's vice president of broadcast communications and branding. "They were autographing footballs to get the Kiss Army invested in the season early on. The band is all in."

Kiss won't perform at the ArenaBowl game on Saturday, which airs at 1 p.m. on CBS (WKMG-Channel 6), but band members (sans makeup) will watch from one of the Amway's luxury boxes, Herron says. Mary Miranda, a contestant on season four of NBC's "The Voice," will sing the national anthem.

CBS will air a prerecorded Kiss concert performance as part of the game's halftime coverage. In the arena, fans will watch a fan try to kick a field goal from midfield to win $100,000. Maybe one of the Kiss guys can be persuaded to attempt a kick, just for sport.

For now, the members of Kiss are merely fans, but it's not unprecedented for rock stars to translate that interest into a business relationship. Singer Jon Bon Jovi was part of the initial ownership group of the Arena League's Philadelphia Soul when it started play in 2004.

"They are not into it in that way yet, but you never know," Herron says. "We brought them into the family and once you're in the Arena Football League, even if you don't have an official relationship, you stay in it. If nothing else, we know we have four fans in the guys in Kiss who will continue to love arena football from here on out."

Kiss
What: In concert, as part of ArenaBowl XXVI weekend in Orlando
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16
Where: Amway Center, 400 W. Church St., Orlando
Cost: $47.30-$109.05
Call: 1-800-745-3000
Online: amwaycenter.com