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Old man Webster may insist “skin deep” means superficial, but for Lafayette native and longtime New Orleans Saints fan Stewart Bacque, it means committed for life.

It’s a mild Thursday afternoon on Jefferson Street downtown, and the 33-year-old Bacque is lying on a chair at Bizarre Ink Tattoo & Piercing as tattoo artist James Puckett stipples a fleur-de-lis into Bacque’s right calf. The shape — it originated in France in the Middle Ages as a heraldic symbol of the French royal family — is of course the logo of not only the Saints, but of the city of New Orleans (and UL’s Ragin’ Cajuns) as well, and it has become a ubiquitous symbol of hope and recovery across the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina, emblazoned on everything from mugs and T-shirts to jewelry and, well, body parts.

“I’ve been wanting to get it a while, but now’s as good a time as any I figure,” Bacque says, as unfazed by the literal translation of fleur-de-lis — flower of the lily — as he is by the burning pressure on his lower leg.

And then there’s Zepherin Legé of Kaplan, who, in addition to having a really cool name, is being more graphic in making his Saints fanaticism indelible. According to a recent article in The Abbeville Meridional, Legé plans to have the legend “The Day Hell Freezes Over” and “Feb. 7, 2010” (Super Sunday) tattooed on his forearm if the Saints win on Sunday.

Puckett is one of three tattoo artists at Bizarre Ink, which opened its doors three years ago. By then, the fleur-de-lis had become a popular symbol of solidarity, and of the New Orleans diaspora driven from the city in Katrina’s wake. “Seven out of 10 customers get a fleur-de-lis of some kind,” says Puckett, “and probably three out of those are Saints [fans].” Surprisingly, he says, no one has yet requested a “Who Dat” tat, but one customer did get the words “Finish Strong” — a popular expression among Saints players and fans — etched into an arm. Prices range from a minimum $30 fleur-de-lette to thousands, depending on size. Bacque’s Saints logo — about 6 inches high and 5 inches wide — cost $250.

“I’ll have a little story to tell my grandkids, you know,” Bacque says with a laugh — an even better story if the Saints win on Sunday. “There’s no if,” he proclaims confidently, “they’re gonna win!”

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