ROCK AND ROLL FOOTBALL SEALED WITH A
April 06, 2014
The L.A. KISS wins its inaugural game at Honda Center as fans of arena football and the namesake rock band embrace both the spectacle and the sport.

By James Barragan
Photo Robert Gauthier

By the time two of the L.A. KISS' star players were lowered from the Honda Center ceiling during introductions for the team's home opener, the team's fans were ready to rock and roll all night and party every down.

Behind four touchdowns from wide receiver Donovan Morgan and a league-record six sacks in one game for Beau Bell, the KISS won its first game at its home venue in Anaheim, 44-34, in front of 12,045 fans. The victory improved the KISS' record to 2-1 while setting a league record of 11 team sacks in one game. The night was a complete rock and roll event. From the national anthem played on an electric guitar, to the bikini-clad dancers suspended in midair throughout the game to fans walking around in KISS makeup and flame orange Mohawk wigs.

Before the first down was played fans had already seen indoor fireworks, a laser show and a performance by heavy metal band Steel Panther.

"We wanted a football team, but this is a different type of football," said John Richards, 47, of Menifee, who for more than 30 years has been a fan of the rock band that inspired the arena football team's name. "This is KISS football."

There was even a special appearance by Motorhead lead singer, Lemmy, who performed the pregame coin toss.

"We're expecting craziness. Total craziness," said George Warner, 48, of Brea, who along with his wife, Yolanda, was one of the first people in line outside of Honda Center before the doors opened. "That's the KISS way."

With tickets to a KISS concert included in the season-ticket deal, the rock band name was a big draw for many of the fans in attendance.

"I think 95% are KISS fans and 5% know something about arena football," said Richards, who received season tickets from his wife as an early birthday gift. "If it would have been L.A. anything else, I wouldn't have been here. I wouldn't have known anything was going on."

But other fans were simply happy to have a pro football team back in the Los Angeles area. Some fans even wore jerseys commemorating the Avengers — the previous L.A.-based AFL team.

"There's no football here," said Luz Adriana Rodriguez, 37, of Brea, who sported the team's black and flame home jersey with Paul Stanley's name on the back. "To have arena basically in our backyard. It was a win-win."

Joan Ash, 68, of Stanton said she was happy she didn't have to go without football for much of the year after the NFL season ends.

"I'm an avid football fan," she said. "I'd have to go into withdrawals from February to August when the preseason starts. That's way too long."

Ash, who rushed into the venue early to get commemorative team rally towels, said she was looking forward to the game experience that the team's rocker co-owners, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, had promised.

"I like that KISS is fan-based," she said. "Why sit and twiddle our thumbs during breaks? We're here to be entertained."

By early in the second quarter, Ash had seen several dance troupes perform between stops in play and BMX bikers performing stunts on the field. Later in the game, the KISS Girls — the team's dance troupe — rode into the field on a Fiat.

Lisa and Jerry Zaharias of Redlands wanted to make sure they were doing their part to bring excitement to the game. Along with their matching team jerseys, the husband and wife wore face paint and L.A. KISS-themed headgear that included a black hat with flame orange decorations to match the team's uniform.

"We want to get them [fans] excited and be part of the energy," said Lisa Zaharias, who along with her husband was featured on the game's dance cam.

Some fans did have a minor quibble with the team name.

"The only thing that is a little off-kilter is 'L.A' KISS," said Greg Gerstung, 49, of Brea as he proudly wore a Gene Simmons jersey. "It should have been O.C. KISS. That would have better represented Orange County."

But the excitement of having a football team in the area overshadowed his minor issue with the name, Gerstung said.

Halfway through the fourth quarter fans started "the wave" around the arena and by the end of the night the KISS had gained some loyal fans.

"As long as they exist, we'll be fans," Richards said.