The L.A. Kings and their unique definition of "in front of"

While it may have just been one bad night for Staples Center staff (see I didn't use 'the' just like AEG likes), my last trip to see a Kings game turned out to be a night when things went so bad, that they almost became comical. If I'm lucky, I can turn my experience into one of those silly sports "curses" (see, "Bambino, Curse of the", "Billy Goat, Curse of the", "Rick Neuheisel, Hiring by UCLA of').

Back on December 26, I had my much anticipated bachelor party, at a Kings-Ducks game, before my wedding on the December 30. It was anticipated in the sense that it took me until I was 45 to finally get married. (And it was well worth the wait I may add.)

The party was far from anything out of "The Hangover." It was a small gathering of 10 people, including my three brothers, two nephews, my father-in-law, and three other friends. Since my father-in-law was still rehabbing from knee surgery, we needed a wheelchair accessible seat. And with that, our comedy of errors began.

My brother Michael was in charge of buying the tickets. You can't buy accessible seats easily online, so you need to call in for them. After a few calls back and forth, the Kings sold him two seats in a wheelchair accessible row, and eight more in the row in front of them.

It seemed like a good idea. Everyone would be fairly close to one another and we could rotate people around to the seat next to my father-in-law.

When we showed up for the game, the ushers told us that we couldn't sit in our seats until after the National Anthem because the area was occupied by some special equipment that is used for a pregame laser show. Presumably, the Kings don't want fans sitting next to some giant death ray machine that could possibly be the subject to examination under the terms of the START Treaty.

Eventually, we got to go to our seats, which turned out to be in unexpected places.

The accessible seats were Aisle 108, Row 18W. It's a long row of folding chairs and we were assigned to two seats somewhere in the middle of it. The rest of the group was in Aisle 108, Row 20.

You might think that Rows 18 and 20 are fairly close to one another. But, if you look at the seating chart linked here, and look closely at section 108, the accessible seats are where the wheelchair symbol is located. Row 20, however, is in a little notch area BEHIND and to the RIGHT of the accessible seats. (If I could cut it out an blow it up, I would. But, that would presume I know how to do such things. A friend made a closeup to show it better.)

So, we ended up with two people in one section and eight others about 20 feet away. Compounding the problem, the other eight seats were at the far end of that section and there were another eight seats between the accessible seats and Row 20. Also, we were somewhat arbitrarily stuck in the middle of the accessible row.

My brother and I figured that at the first intermission, we could sort out the problem. The accessible row was nearly empty after all. Or maybe we could move to another section.

So, first we asked the ushers if some people could move over. The answer was no, you can't sit in seats that we've sold to someone else. My brother then opted to go find a supervisor. And nothing speaks authority more than a guy in a bright red blazer. Red blazers should always outrank purple shirts.

My brother appealed to the supervisor and told him of the situation. He talked of people traveling from distant places (Michigan, Missouri, Canada, Oakland!). One guy in a red blazer consulted with another guy in a red blazer. They came to a solution: deal with it. Those are your seats and that's where you have to sit. This violated one of the cardinal rules of customer service: when a customer comes to you with a problem, present an option. Even if it's a really bad option. The worst answer possible is "No."

My father-in-law and I ended up having a good time at the game, even though we felt like we had been sent to exile. My brother and one of my nephews performed a stirring feat of civil disobedience by walking over to the wheelchair sections during the third period. (My parents instilled in me a healthy respect for the importance of assigned seating. Or maybe it was just a healthy fear of speaking up and causing trouble. The family motto is "Sorry to bother you, but...")

Eventually, the wheelchair row did get filled in toward the end of the game. Some of the Kings staff (they wore badges that said STAFF) came by and asked the ushers "Can we sit here?" The answer: "Sure, no one's been there all night!"

After the game, my brother started contacting various Kings ticketing officials to discuss the situation, but nobody seemed to understand the problem. Or care. Or bother to return calls. Or emails. (My plan to get Eli Broad and Magic Johnson to lobby for me didn't work. Tim Leiweke got to them first!)

The Kings, who presumably should be the ones trying harder to win fan support, seemed to be bending over backward to make sure that a group of people who bought $1,000 worth of tickets (OK, that's not a lot compared to the whole arena) were kept as unhappy as possible.

Toward the end of the game, a fan in the section above my father-in-law and me knocked a beer over by accident. The cup landed next to us. The staff sprung into action. They put up a "Wet Floor" sign. Of course, we could have been hit by the cup. Or had beer spilled on us. It just seemed like a symbol for the night. We weren't people there paying our money to enjoy the game, but rather just people there to create extra work for the ushers.

The bachelor party fiasco fortunately did not lead to any wedding night mishaps. The people at the Autry National Center did a great job. And they even let my family and friends sit next to each other. It's not as hard as you think it is to pull that off.

After the Kings won on December 26, they won in San Jose the next night. Then they went through a rough patch, losing 11 of 13 games. Did I have anything to do with it? No, I'm afraid not. I don't believe in such things. The Kings lost those games on merit.

But am I going to a Kings game again soon? Maybe.
Will I ever go to an NFL game at Farmers Field, if it ever gets built? Most decidedly never. But, that would be yet another story.

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