LA DELIVERS UNPRECEDENTED ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE
April 06, 2014
By Michael Martinez

Do not adjust your eyes.

The field is really silver. And yes, it's really football. In Southern California.

The NFL isn't coming any time soon, but maybe the LA KISS can be a reasonable facsimile until it does. Indoor football is far short of what fans crave, but it'll have to do.

The KISS, a first-year entry in the Arena Football League, played its first home game Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 12,045 at Honda Center. But to say it was football wouldn't be wholly accurate. It was football plus a whole lot more.

And maybe that was part of the problem. It's a good bet that patrons weren't just talking about the KISS' 44-34 victory over the Portland Thunder. They were probably talking about the show that came before, during and after the game.

For one admission, fans got a rock concert, a pyrotechnics show, laser lights, BMX stunt performers and girls in bikinis dancing in metal pods above the four corners of the arena. They played on a field that was, well, gray -- although the team calls it silver.

Was this a football game within a concert, or a concert within a football game?

It was hard to tell. Even the players had to wonder.

"The guys did enjoy it, but for me, I'm a football player," wide receiver Donovan Morgan said. "I come here to play football. I don't want to say it was a little bit too much, but it was a little bit too much."

Maybe over the top is a better description. Considering the reaction of fans to the game, the football was sufficient to draw and hold their attention. No doubt there were KISS fans who came to see Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, but most of them seemed to be football-starved folks looking for a good game.

And they got it. When the music stopped and the action began, it was a worthy product. Average attendance for AFL games is 7,791. The KISS surpassed that by more than 4,000.

Maybe things will level off when they play their next game. Or maybe they'll sustain the good feelings. But for now, they're thriving, having won two of their first three games on a night of craziness.

"Surreal," said KISS quarterback J.J. Raterink, who threw four touchdown passes and ran for one. "That was the only word I could come up with from the beginning when we heard about everything going on.

"There was a lot going on, but the thing I was most impressed with the team was once the game started, we got going. We were able to put that aside."

They may have to do it again, depending on whether KISS management wants to produce more concerts and laser shows and dancing girls.

The players would prefer they not.

"I think it was a distraction," Morgan said. "I'€™m pretty sure I speak for all these guys that we just want to play. We don't want to have all these timeouts. We want to continue to play football and get W's."

If they do, that will keep fans coming back.