By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
"Wow! Did you see him move?" Simmons asks, his eyes lighting up. "I never knew humans could be that big, that fast and that quick on their feet. I'm out of wind just watching them!"
Yet, had it not been for an exploratory phone call from then-Orlando Predators owner Bouchy to McGhee, Simmons says, KISS wouldn't have expanded its brand into the AFL.
"Brett Bouchy is a champion," Simmons remarks. "All four of us—it's the unholy quartet."
Knowing the veteran music manager through a mutual friend, Bouchy originally wanted to chat with McGhee about the possibility of having KISS play a show during the 2013 Arena Bowl festivities in Orlando. "I wanted to create a Super Bowl-type atmosphere," Bouchy elaborates during a phone call a few weeks after the practice. "I wanted to turn it into a weekend event with a concert, and KISS were the obvious choice for it."
However, Bouchy had other ideas, too. He wanted to gauge whether McGhee would consider joining an ownership group for an expansion team in Nashville. For kicks, Bouchy also asked McGhee if he'd ask Simmons and Stanley if they wanted in; when they surprisingly said yes, Bouchy decided to ditch Nashville, shoot for Los Angeles and name the team after the band. With no football team presently in Los Angeles and no serious prospects on the horizon, Bouchy's idea made sense to the rock veterans from a financial perspective as well; during his tenure with the Predators, the team was always one of the league's most profitable.
In the four months after Bouchy's first call, what seemed as far-fetched as a successfully executed fumblerooski began taking shape. First, they needed to find an arena to house the team. After considering several locations, the foursome struck a deal with the Honda Center thanks to KISS' relationship with the venue.
"[It's] a world-class arena," Stanley says. "We've seen enough arenas to know what the top tier is. Quite honestly, they not only welcomed us with open arms, but they made it very clear to us that they wanted us there."
Even though the team is headquartered in Anaheim, the team was given the LA moniker to represent the football-starved region. Nevertheless, Stanley vows to not ignore Anaheim. "We're very much about community," he explains. "Whether it's outreach to hospitals or community service, we are committed to Anaheim. Historically, where a team plays isn't necessarily its identification for that team. If that idea of where you play is the name of your team, you would have the Bronx Yankees. We are of this neighborhood and have shown that to be the case."
What Simmons and Stanley lack in knowing how to run a successful sports team is gained in Bouchy and Hoversten's (recently of the Los Angeles Dodgers) experience. "[The band members] know what we know, and we know what we don't know," Simmons says in his New York accent. "That's why we brought the best people onboard."
As for their individual responsibilities, Stanley designs the team's uniform ("It's what you'd expect from a KISS team," he says) and selects the cheerleading squad. Simmons is involved with what he does best: promotions and branding. Simmons and Stanley regularly make the hour-long drive from their Los Angeles homes to attend meetings. The duo speaks daily with Bouchy and Hoversten about the team's operations. They are even involved in the tough choices when it comes to making critical player personnel decisions.
"When we're reviewing with Coach Bob the team, with the players' names on a big board," Simmons remembers, "we came down to one of the names who was a little slow in returning our calls and wasn't available. On the spot, we erased his name. This is legitimate, and you've gotta commit to it."
In order to carry through with ownership's proclamations of an in-your-face brand of football, the LA KISS went out and acquired the best available talent. Leading the squad as quarterback will be Colt Brennan, the former Mater Dei High quarterback who went on to become NCAA's single-season leader in touchdown passes. He acknowledges the LA KISS is unlike any other team he's played for, but he's upbeat and excited about the team's prospects on and off the field.
"The reality-show aspect has been a little bit different, but it hasn't been anything crazy," Brennan say. "We've been in a football mentality since we showed up."
After being seriously injured in a car accident, the Laguna Beach native wants another crack at the NFL. Initially apprehensive about joining an AFL team, he was sold about playing for the LA KISS after speaking with ownership. "This is an adult league, and we're treated like professionals," the quarterback says. "This is definitely going to be another pathway to get back to the NFL, and the level of talent in the Arena League is top-notch and will hopefully show someone in the NFL to give me a shot again."
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Seeing the rock stars in person has brought out the best in the team. The wide receivers run precise patterns and drop only a handful of passes after being thrown hundreds of reps that morning. Running backs bob and weave past tackling dummies, treating each carry as though it will clinch the Arena Bowl.