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Big Easy Living: Fantasy League season finally opens

We have a new season!

New Orleans fans can finally get down to the serious business of free agents, draft picks and starting lineups.

We can set up our fantasy leagues, start pouring over stat sheets, and second-guess our digital competitors with savvy selections of players.

Choosing the front-runners is never the hard part – no, it’s those second-tier, come-from-behind contenders on your roster who can make or break your draft.

I know this from years of assessing players at youth league soccer tryouts for Carrollton Boosters. (Never, ever pick the 7-year-old who flaps her hands at the wrists as she runs.)

Anyway, this is my first foray into the fantasy league online world, and I’m having a little trouble ranking my draft choices.

I’m definitely rooting for the College of Charleston junior intent on a culinary career – she was a counselor at my daughter’s camp in North Carolina and has a doll of a personality. But can I afford to let sentimentality drive my picks? The Georgia co-ed with a trio of sub-deb outings under her belt might be a better choice for Queen of Carnival.

Wait, did you think I was talking football here? NFL fantasy leagues, now that the Saints are back at training camp?

No, no, no. The fantasy league with far deeper tentacles into New Orleans culture is the other, vastly more interesting one launching this month: The New Orleans Fantasy Debutante League.

With Sunday’s publication of this year’s coterie of debutantes, the gates are open and the race under way.

As the Fantasy Deb League creator herself noted on Saturday, “The Commissioner cannot believe it is already that time of year again, but tomorrow morning she will once again have to rise early to steal The Biddy’s copy of the Debutante Coterie. … Quite a few interesting draft picks this year. Don’t oversleep. Don’t let your copy ‘accidentally’ go missing!! (By the way, calling the cops on The Commish is HIGHLY frowned upon.)”

If your copy of the much-anticipated Living Section 2011-2012 deb list did go astray (shame on you), you can find it here.

I confess I wasn’t clued in to this quintessentially New Orleans handicapping pastime until Brendan McCarthy, in a daring bit of investigative reporting, put the Fantasy New Orleans Debutant League (FNODL) on the front page of The Times-Picayune last year.

I was charmed with the concept, and with Trisha Wells, the commissioner who started the fun six years ago, and with the accompanying photograph of the trim blonde wearing a diamond tiara.

Doesn’t every woman, despite the fact that she knows it’s oh-so-wrong, really, deep down, want to be a princess?

When I moved to New Orleans many years ago, a family friend on the inside of Uptown blueblood society confided to me that, with his help, I could strive to be inducted into some of the “right” organizations in the city. The exception, he told me frankly, was the New Orleans Junior League. He just didn’t have enough pull for that one.

No kidding. Under FNODL scoring guidelines, I wouldn’t have tallied a single point, even the easy one for having had a mother born in New Orleans.

As a person who always has feared rejection – I went to a college with no sororities and only ever had two jobs in my life – I shy away from groups that rank or rate, organizations with the power to blackball. I love the fact that, in New Orleans, you can pretty much be whomever you want to be, eccentrics happily and eagerly included.

And that emphasis on acceptance embraces bluebloods as well. Who, after all, can imagine a New Orleans sans scepters, tableaux and mock royalty? They factor in our history, our culture, our community, our politics (but I’m not going there).

OK, I despise the fact that the top-tier local country clubs don’t allow female members, and cringe at society write-ups that refer to women by their husbands’ names. But they probably cringe at a lot of things I do, too, like emailing thank-you notes and wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

The Commish gets it – her fantasy deb league capitalizes on a unique aspect of New Orleans culture with a keen sense of humor and an underlying fondness for the social strata she is gently lampooning.

I think the debs get it, too. Yeah, they’re participating in a retro rite of passage, but they are 21st century women who also realize their responsibility in a world that is shrinking and changing. Just read their bios. (Who knew we had so many young women working to fight world hunger and save abandoned pets?)

The best ones have an appealing sense of self-deprecation about the whole process, too. My favorite quote in McCarthy’s story came from a deb with a paltry 65 points: “I’m a pretty competitive person,” she said, “so I’m kind of bummed I’m not higher up.”

So I am happily following this new sport of queens.

If you want to join in, read the rules here. Briefly, each team drafts a certain number of debs, who are ranked in rounds, just like NFL players, by their perceived ability to perform better than their rivals. In this context, that might mean being the honoree at a particularly splashy deb party, making it as a maid or queen in a top-level Carnival krewe, and avoiding such faux pas as bad hairdos or toe rings.

And now, let the new fantasy season begin. Just don’t come crying to me if your top draft pick goes out with an injury (who can curtsy with a torn ACL?) or fails to make it through training camp (that regal wave is hard to get exactly right).

Oh, and enjoy the fact that New Orleans never takes itself too seriously, and we’re a better place because of it.

















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