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Photos: The Band KISS Owns A Football Team And We Went To A Game

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As the push to get not one, but two NFL stadiums built in Los Angeles gains momentum, it's easy to forget that we're already a pro football town. Sort of.

If you count the Arena Football League as professional football (which, technically, it is) and Orange County as Los Angeles (which, technically, it isn't), then Angelenos clamoring for gridiron action can get their fix at Anaheim's Honda Center on Saturdays. Ever since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1994, the second-largest media market in the country has constantly been teased and given empty promises about the return of the NFL. Filling that void—for now—is the LA KISS, a football team owned by members of the legendary Detroit rock band with the same name.

"I love football and L.A. doesn't have a team except them, so that's why I'm here," David Thorpe, a young 20-something from Cerritos, tells me as we watch a team that's nominally representing Los Angeles against the defending league champion Arizona Rattlers. A few might remember the Avengers, the AFL team that played at the Staples Center from 2000 until it (and, for one season, the league itself) folded in 2009.

Fast forward to 2014, and arena football returns to Southern California with a franchise owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS. "Rock And Roll All Nite" plays every time the team scores a touchdown, and the most common jersey I spot in the stands doesn't have the name of any particular player but Gene Simmons'. Fans come dressed up in the gear and facepaint you'd expect for a football team owned by KISS. It all sounds like a silly gimmick, but that's part of the AFL's strategy.

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You are not alone if you're unfamiliar with arena football. The AFL averages under 9,000 fans per game and these days games are only broadcast on cable. The official announced attendance for this game against the Arizona Rattlers is only 7,900. That's about 40% of the Honda Center's capacity, but it honestly looks less than that.In order to set itself apart from the behemoth that is the NFL and college football, the AFL positions itself not as a direct competitor, but as a complementary league with a looser attitude. Where the NFL's style of play is a grinding stop-and-go, arena football is pass-heavy and high-offense. It's not unusual for teams to score into the low 60s. Instead of cracking down on touchdown celebrations, they're permitted in the AFL. KISS star receiver Donovan Morgan is nicknamed "Captain Morgan," and every touchdown he scores is celebrated a midfield with the pose of his namesake alcohol mascot.

In their inaugural season, in which they won three of 18 games, the team upped the ante with go-go dancers suspended high above the arena floor as in-game entertainment. Sadly, they were not brought back for this season.

Going into this matchup against the Rattlers, the KISS had lost their first four games of the season. And the KISS were truly were a hapless team that night. Backup quarterback Brian Zbydniewski got the nod for his first start of the season and was completely overmatched, constantly making poor throws (including four interceptions). Morgan was the lone bright spot for the team, scoring three touchdowns—including a highlight one-handed grab:

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Not quite Odell Beckham, Jr., but nobody at the Honda Center was complaining.

It seemed like KISS fans were just happy to have a team to root for, even in the face of pure futility. The enthusiasm was there for the few touchdowns and big plays, even if the blunders came with the accompanying groans that echoed through the Honda Center. More often than not, people I encountered throughout the stands were season ticket holders.

A significant portion of the crowd that night were families with young children in tow. Herb Leslie of Riverside tells me that he loves bringing his 8-year old son to games because, "They love how they try to cater to young kids and are just... more fun." After the game ended he would be bringing the boys down to field level to get autographs, a tradition across all teams in the AFL.

Despite the enthusiasm of plenty of diehards, the KISS face a daunting challenge to win the hearts of fans holding out for the Rams/Raiders/Chargers to move to L.A. The AFL season starts as the NBA and NHL enter their postseason, and continues through the summer, which is traditionally associated with the outdoor delights of baseball. Requiring an arena necessitates being in a city that has either a basketball or hockey team, and as one drives down Katella Avenue towards the Honda Center, the banners you see hung on the street are for the Ducks or Angels. Pulling into the parking lot, Ducks flags are mounted on several of the cars as Orange County roots for their run through the NHL playoffs. Most humorously, the Ducks' team store at the Honda Center is only partially taken over by the KISS, marked by throwing a KISS jersey on top of the bronze statue of a hockey player.

Although I would never consider closely following arena football as a fan, I couldn't help but be won over by how charming and rather ridiculous the whole affair was. Somehow it seemed appropriate that the band known for their glam spectacle would put that energy towards a minor sports franchise. And, heck, hearing "Rock and Roll All Nite" for the third time after a touchdown really grows on you.

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If there's one corner of the market the LA KISS have on lockdown, it's KISS (the band) fanatics who also love their sports. I met two superfans who have season tickets behind the opponent's bench, so dedicated to their team that they've become recognized by visiting teams. Robert Hoppenrath and Michael Jackson (he swears that's his real name) respectively wear autographed Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley jerseys decked out with patches. Jackson even has a patch for the Captain Morgan rum in honor of the team's star. "We are die-hard KISS fans and we also love our sports, so it was only natural," he tells me.

"Win, lose or draw, we're here for the entertainment—and for our team."

The KISS lost the game 68-30. They remain winless eight games into the season.

The LA KISS play their home games at the Honda Center in Anaheim.