Among the many advantages the 2010 New Orleans Saints possess is their roster, which is almost the same as 2009's — almost. One notable exception is Scott Fujita, who signed a three-year, $14 million deal with the Cleveland Browns in the offseason.
Stat-wise, Fujita was never the flashiest player, though he was always reliable. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in education. His schooling and unique upbringing (Fujita was adopted by a Japanese-American father and white mother, and his father's family was interned during World War II) has influenced his worldview. Last season, Fujita made headlines when he spoke out in support of abortion rights and gay marriage.
"I want to stand up for equal rights for everybody," Fujita told Gambit by phone while he prepared for the Browns' regular season opener.
Fujita's willingness to take a stand on controversial issues made him a media go-to guy as the Saints made their Super Bowl run last winter. "All of us have a unique opportunity to use our NFL careers as a platform," he says, adding that short football careers make the window of opportunity to speak out very small. Aside from equal marriage rights (which Fujita says is "a human rights issue more than anything else") and abortion rights, Fujita also has dedicated himself to children's issues and breast cancer awareness (his mother is a two-time survivor).
Fujita also told us he looks forward to playing again in the Superdome. "Every time I changed teams, I played the team I left the next year," he says. "It's always fun to play with all your old friends, and I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed New Orleans."
THE YOUTUBE TV-SHOOTER
Never bet against the Saints
Remember that YouTube video? A man says he made a wager that if the Saints beat the Redskins, everyone he knew could come by his house and shoot out his TV. The bettor was Wayne Spring of rural Albany, La., a pessimistic Saints fan who believed his team was cursed, and that if its winning streak would end, it would be brought about by "the sorriest team out there."
Spring recalls going online while the Saints trailed the Redskins to "rile up" his friends by saying his TV was safe. Then, in overtime, the Black and Gold surged to victory.
Before he could even get home, Spring's friends were telling him they were on their way to his house to shoot his TV. Spring arrived just in time to videotape his 60-inch plasma television being carried onto his lawn and his own brother striking first blood with a .500-caliber Magnum revolver. "I figured if the TV is already ruined, we might as well set up a firing line," Spring says. Boy, did they. Eight men with shotguns, rifles and handguns unloaded on the television. Spring even joined in, which was capped off by one friend donning a Saints helmet and running headlong into the set.
"I went to bed and the next day my son woke me up and told me that the video had 25,000 views," he says. "I thought the YouTube counter must be broken."
Spring's video had gone viral overnight. He got his first interview request from a news station in Baton Rouge, followed by the Associated Press requesting to put his video on the wire. Ten minutes later, he was a bona fide Internet celebrity, fielding calls from CBS, NBC, FOX News and even a radio station in New Zealand. One call came from the cable network TruTV, which bought rights to air the video on a show called Loonies in the Boonies.
Spring used that money to buy a new TV and he's made more videos, which he claims "are downright hilarious" and will be released in upcoming weeks. And there may be a sequel. With Spring's TV shootout hovering at just over 900,000 hits, he's made a new bet: If that video doesn't reach a million views by the end of this season, he's going to let his friends shoot up his new TV.NFL VS. NOLA
Who owns Who Dat?
A few weeks before the Super Bowl, the NFL sent cease-and-desist letters to local apparel merchants Storyville and Fleurty Girl, insisting they not use the term "Who Dat" on their clothing. The fan outrage and backlash was swift. "It's just common lexicon, not just for the people of New Orleans but the state and beyond," says Storyville owner Josh Harvey. Louisiana Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu urged the NFL to back down, and the league made a hasty retreat.
But the saga continues, because when the NFL claimed the copyright against local merchandisers, so did brothers Sal and Steve Monistere, New Orleans natives who own Who Dat Inc., a name they patented in the mid-1980s, and last week they served their own cease-and-desist letters against Storyville and Fleurty Girl. This letter cites Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's position that, while NFL does not own the rights to "Who Dat," the fleur de lis or the colors black and gold, the state of Louisiana has no opinion on what party owns the phrase.
The Monisteres' attorney, Brandon Frank, told Gambit the brothers would not comment on the ongoing litigation, but did release an email statement from the Monisteres which reads, in part: "We do not want to see Who Dat fall into the hands of 'The Big Boys' from New York City. If it did, Who Dat would be homogenized and would no longer be homespun. We will fight to the death to keep Who Dat 'Naturally New Orleans.'"
The only thing that's certain is that Harvey says he and other retailers will continue producing Who Dat merchandise until a court rules otherwise.
"We were never going to stop anyway," Harvey says. "Just on principle, no matter where this goes, you can't stop selling 'Who Dat' stuff. It's about the fans that stood up and said 'Hell, no' to the NFL."
Lauren Thom, the clothing merchant known as "Fleurty Girl," says while she was initially scared by litigation, it may be the best thing that's happened to her.
"I had people lining out the door who had never heard of my shop before," she says. "I would not have been able to open a second store if it wasn't for this."
Fleurty Girl's popularity even ensured that Thom would have legal representation when a lawyer offered his services in exchange for a "Who Dat" shirt.
Thom says she isn't in favor of striking some sort of licensing deal with Who Dat Inc. "Let us have our moment," she says. "We're fans; it's the fans' saying and we're using our creativity as artists." She's asking fans who agree with her position to wear black and gold ribbons of support to home games.
Other local merchants are still churning out Who Dat merchandise (Zapp's even makes 'Who Dat' potato chips) and Storyville and other merchants have come out with new lines for the 2010 season.
But the unexpected consequence of the NFL's suit is that it seemed to open a Pandora's box of litigation. Not only is the Monistere brothers' suit against the NFL working its way through New York's federal courts, but there's also a suit by a St. Bernard cafe called "Who Dat Yat Chat" against Who Dat Inc. The restaurant, which claims it wants nothing to do with the Saints, has made the most daring claim of all: Nobody owns the phrase "Who Dat."
Just another way of saying we all do.YING YANG TWINS
What a difference a year makes. In 2008, proper Uptown ladies probably thought "crunk" was the sound your car makes when it hits a pothole on Magazine Street. By 2009, they were standing up in the Dome with 70,000 others singing along to the Ying Yang Twins' "(Halftime) Stand Up and Get Crunk."
The YY Twins, who hailed from Atlanta (home of the Falcons — the Falcons!), had a few rap hits over the years, the first of which was "Get Low," performed with Lil Jon. They originally recorded "Stand Up and Get Crunk" in 2004, but it didn't become a Black and Gold anthem until early in the 2009 season, when the team began playing it after each Saints touchdown, igniting frenzied dancing in the Dome, even among those who couldn't define Dirty South on a bet.
As the year went on, the song became a popular ringtone, rose toward the top of the Amazon and iTunes rap singles charts and was the subject of a number of popular YouTube remixes. The Twins (Kaine and D'Roc) made an amusing appearance on WDSU-TV with sports anchor Keli Fulton, in which they seemed preternaturally (one might say Snoop Doggedly) relaxed. The song even made it into the Madden NFL 11 videogame, featuring Drew Brees on the cover, and they performed it live during the Lombardi Gras victory parade — of all places, on the steps of Gallier Hall.
Will we still be as eager to get crunk during the 2010 season? Or will a new anthem emerge? The Ying Yang Twins aren't waiting around to find out if they're a one-hit Saints wonder; in June, they released a new album, Gumbo.