Joshua Dean has two selves.
One is a body piercer, social-media marketer and tattoo enthusiast who works overnight preparing confections at Sweet Things & Grill, a Metairie doughnut shop.
The other is known as Pope Clown, a gray-toned creature with bull horns, images of a cross and a spider branded on his forehead, dark painted lips and braided facial hair.
As this alter ego, Dean has become one of the most recognizable sports fans in New Orleans, having missed just two Arena Football League games of the New Orleans VooDoo since the early 2000s, always in full garb.
“It just took off,” he said. “The fans took to it. I just ran with it.”
Now Dean is one of four local sports fans competing to be recognized nationally for his fanatical commitment.
Dean, “Game Time Saint” (Donald Silcio), Ben “CyborgSaint” Collier and Scott “Saints Joker” McGowan are nominated for awards at the second annual What a Fan Sports Fan Conference in Orlando, Florida, which ends Sunday. The four-day event is dedicated to celebrating the men and women behind some of the nation’s most beloved and rowdy sports enthusiasts.
The festivities end with an awards show. In a switch of perspectives, former sports greats serve as presenters.
“It’s their weekend,” said Lowell Moore, executive producer and creator of the event. “It’s their Oscars, their Emmys.”
Superfans will compete for awards in their individual sports league category and for the honor of being the nation’s top fan overall. The competition from other cities includes Wayne “Violator” Maybry (Oakland Raiders), Jon “BigNut” Peters (Ohio State), “CaptainJet” (New York Jets) and “Guerilla Luke” (Miami Dolphins).
Last year, Lionel “Da Pope” Alphonso, a longtime Saints fan, won the What a Fan Award in the NFL category.
Can the Crescent City repeat the feat?
Silcio hopes so. But he’s tickled by the invitation alone.
“Ah man, I was kind of, like, surprised,” Silcio said. “It was an honor.”
It also seems to drive home the growing popularity of dressing up at New Orleans sporting events — especially Saints games.
Dozens serve as walking, talking — often yelling — inspirations, not just for their fellow fans, but for players on the field as well. McGowan’s favorite sports memory as “Saints Joker” is from 2009, when former Saints running back Reggie Bush handed him a pair of game-worn gloves.
With the VooDoo, Dean has helped the local Arena Football League franchise place fans in seats, giving away thousands of promotional tickets and selling hundreds of others.
Collier makes appearances at Saints-related charity events.
“It’s totally different than us going to normal games with a jersey on,” Collier said. “It’s a lot more involved. People are just real open to come talk to you, take pics, hang out with you. It’s a lot more interactive.”
On non-gamedays, Dean, 37, runs his doughnut shop. But when he has time, he walks the streets of the city in costume.
“When people see me, they think VooDoo,” he said. “It’s a blessing and humbling feeling on owning something I created one night, which has grown into what it is over the years.”
Collier, 27, is the owner of Bud’s Broiler in Metairie.
He started dressing in his costume when his mother-in-law gave him a ticket to the Saints game against Pittsburgh on Halloween night in 2010. Brainstorming, he settled on a costume inspired by his favorite fighters on “Mortal Combat,” the popular video game.
“It developed from there,” he said. “It’s a lot of dedication, a lot of money and a lot of work.”
His outfit includes a pair of game-worn pants from former Saints great Jon Stinchcomb. He purchased them on eBay.
“I had to get them altered because dude is way bigger than me,” Silcio said. “When I first put them on, they, like, swallowed me, man.”
McGowan, 43, and his brother run M.D.’s Consulting, a pest and termite control business in Baton Rouge.
Many of McGowan’s customers don’t know his Saints alter ego.
“When they hear it,” he said, “they’re like, ‘No. No way!’ ”