Monday, August 4, 2014

LA KISS Season 1 Thoughts

Chad meets Paul Stanley 
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

I was inducted into the KISSArmy at the age of 5.  About a year ago, I sat down at my computer at work and saw the headline, “KISS TO BRING FOOTBALL BACK TO LOS ANGELES.” Being a fan of both football and KISS, I was intrigued. Clicking on the article revealed by “football” the headline meant Arena Football and “Los Angeles” meant Anaheim.  The article made mention of season tickets going on sale that morning. Since I have a tendency to make questionable impulse decisions, as soon as tickets went on sale I submitted a request for two field level tickets. Before that day my only knowledge of arena football was 1) it was played on a smaller field than the NFL, 2) the AFL had shut down recently for one season and 3) Jon Bon Jovi was part owner of the Philadelphia Soul team.  Point three is one of the most important reasons for my purchasing tickets. I wanted a rivalry to be born between the Soul and KISS. Who wouldn’t want to see Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Jon Bon Jovi trash talking each other and making public bets on the game? If the Soul wins, KISS has to cover “Livin’ on a Prayer” in concert. If KISS wins, Jon has to wear KISS style makeup during a concert. I have weird reasons for making decisions. 

When I ordered my tickets, the AFL had yet to announce the schedule for the 2014 season. Unfortunately for me, the game makers failed to consult me in the decision making process. Once the schedule was announced, I found out due to my travel plans for the months of April and May, I was going to miss three out of the first four home games.  This was disappointing but there were seven other games that I would be able to see.

The fans!
Again, because I make questionable impulse decisions, my season tickets were six rows off the field. At the time of order, my thinking being close to the field would be most exciting. Between ordering the tickets and attending my first game, I embarked on my trip of hockey fandom and got accustomed to sitting in the upper levels of arenas where I could see the entire field. Attending my first LA KISS game, I was excited to be near the field but also felt my view was hindered by being to the left side of the LA KISS bench, which blocked my view of plays on the near side of the field beyond the 25 yard line.  Also, I was seated next to a season ticket couple that spent the majority of the first quarter telling me how upset they were with how small the seats were and how they wouldn’t be renewing their tickets. Needless to say, the first impression of the environment left a bit to be desired.

Once the game started, however, any negative thoughts were quelled. Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend LA KISS were a great team this season. They finished the season with a 3-15 record. I don’t think any fan expected them to be great. They were an expansion team playing their season. Barring some type of miracle this was going to be a learning season. The true test will be the next 2-3 seasons to see how they improve on the foundation that was laid this season.

As stated earlier, I wasn’t too familiar with AFL before becoming a KISS ticket holder and I failed to really expand my knowledge during the season. Part of that is due to a lack of coverage the AFL gets in mainstream coverage. By that I mean Yahoo sports and the ESPN score app doesn’t list scores or news. I am also a sports fan that doesn’t focus much on stats. My basic following of sports is, “did the team I like win” and “did the team I don’t like lose.”  I am trying to become a knowledgeable fan. It just hasn’t happened yet.

Paul Stanley
With the regular season of the AFL finished and LA KISS missing the playoffs, it’s time to look toward next season. It’s pretty clear the standout player for the KISS this season was the 2008 Rookie of the Year, Donovan “Captain” Morgan.  I would like to see KISS get behind Morgan and promote him as the franchise player.  Or at the very least, market a jersey with his name and number.

From my untrained eye, the two areas that need the most work in the offense are Quarterback and Pass Defense.  After starting the season 2-8, KISS traded Quarterback J.J. Raterink and acquired 18-year AFL veteran Aaron Garcia. Towards the end of the season, Garcia suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced by rookie, Kenny Guiton. While Garcia is an AFL legend, if I’m the one in charge of a new team, I would look towards the future and go with a younger QB who can be molded and have a team built around his strengths.

Since arena football is mostly passing plays, pass defense is a key part to the game. At the last few home games, there were way too many times where the receivers for the visiting team were pretty much standing alone on the field. The field is about half as wide as an NFL field so when a receiver has no one around him, there’s a problem.  I’m not going to sit here and armchair quarterback how to fix this problem because I would sound even more like an idiot than normal.  I trust the coaching staff does know how to address this issue and will take the necessary steps during the offseason to try and rectify the lack of coverage. 

The best thing I can say about the games is they were fun.  After the first game, the people sitting next to me never returned. Instead, fans that were into the game and into the team surrounded me. Even when the team wasn’t doing well, the fans were there to offer support. No one left before the end of the game no matter the score. They cheered the team even after a bad play or two.  Most of all, I was thrilled there were no annoying belligerent fans in my area. The positivity and fun atmosphere made me rethink my decision to get tickets in the upper deck next season.  Instead, I renewed my tickets for the same seats.

Paul Stanley & Schuyler Hoversten
LA KISS management needs to be commended for their dedication to the team. I may be na├»ve, but hearing Paul Stanley speak to the fans during halftime (not to mention actually sitting in seats near the field instead of in a luxury box) and team President Schuyler Hoversten addressing the crowd at the final home game, you can tell this is management that cares about it’s team, about it’s fans and wants to put the best team on the field.

As of now I don’t have any major travel plans on the calendar so when the schedule is announced, I should be at every game proudly wearing my LA KISS “Stanley” jersey (unless they start selling a “Morgan” jersey) and rooting on the team to victory.  It’s exciting to get a chance to support a team from their beginning. Now if I can just learn more about the team so I can talk about them in more context of did they win or lose. 

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