Die-hards might need life support

A replay showed that a controversial call right before halftime Sunday was correct, but fans still booed the officials into their locker room.

Passion was inside the Orleans Arena, and the roughly 3,000 fans in attendance were the true die-hards who cared about the outcome even if it had little effect on the season.

They were the ones who decided a sunny day would be better spent inside watching two bad teams — the Arizona Rattlers, who won, 41-20, and the Gladiators — than sitting by a pool in the 100-degree heat.

"As long as we’re here, we’re going to support them," said Hope Forsthoffer, 29. "It’s a fun game to watch."

She has more of a vested interest in attending than most fans. Her husband, Paul LaQuerre, played for the Gladiators last season.

Still, no one forced them to attend. They, like most of the others in the crowd, didn’t let the Gladiators’ struggles dissuade them.

The Gladiators (2-11) didn’t help by getting shut out in the second half. Still, the fans who remained cheered the few good plays and booed the handful of questionable calls late into the fourth quarter.

"That’s who I feel worst for is the fan, the person that’s paying their money to watch a team that played like we did today," Gladiators coach Danton Barto said. "It’s embarrassing to this organization, it’s embarrassing to those players — it should be — and it’s embarrassing to me.

"When you get a crowd like that, and you see they’re enthusiastic no matter what, that’s something as a coach I think a lot of times you forget about. Those are the people that pay the bills. I feel sorry for them because I think they deserve a better effort from us and a better team than that."

Max Maddux, who created and runs the Gladiaddicts fan club, said the team has lost all but the staunchest fans, and even those could leave.

He said it goes beyond this season, made worse by a defeat to an Arizona team that now is 4-10. The Gladiators have not made the playoffs since 2003, their inaugural season in Las Vegas, and they will finish with a losing record for the second year in a row.

"We’ve heard the same story too many times," said Maddux, 39. "It’s time to see it backed up with some action. They’re (fans) going to drop off starting next year. If something happens in the offseason that sparks excitement, that could change."

Perhaps the Gladiators will hire a coach with name recognition to replace Barto, who will be let go after the season. The organization also could grab its fans’ attention by signing impact Arena Football League free agents.

One hard-core fan is Tim Fiore, who has attended every home game for three years. He wore a Marcus Nash jersey to this one. Until this season, Nash was one of the team’s better players, but now he is helping Dallas to the league’s best record.

Nash left on his own to join his buddy, quarterback Clint Dolezel, but most of the roster was part of a dramatic overhaul, and Fiore, 48, said he wanted stability.

"I hope they do something to keep some of their regulars instead of (like) last year getting rid of everybody but three people who remained members of the team," Fiore said. "I thought (it was) ridiculous."

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