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February 11, 2011
Span and Sain and Pray for Rain
[Ed. Note: We alert you to the fact that this article deals with an adult theme that may offend a few of our readers.]
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the maxim that if you can imagine it, there’s porn about it on the Internet. That’s no joke. It was only a few years ago that I first learned of fan fiction, when a friend explained that one of his coworkers not only contributed to, but ran, an extensive website entirely dedicated to fan-written stories about the characters from the animated series Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. The stories that turned sexual—yes, stories about cartoon chipmunks that turn sexual—were called slash fiction, named for the typographic symbol in the "Kirk/Spock" liaisons that launched the genre in the 1970s.
Naturally, this prompted my friends and I to go online and see if there was any kind of subject, anything at all, and that did not have something pornographic written about it and posted on the Internet. The answer: not really, no. We couldn’t find anything pairing Jay Leno with bandleader Kevin Eubanks, but that was about it.
What we did discover was a trove of imagined romance and sex between baseball players, on multiple websites. I thought that over the years I’d seen most of the dark corners of sports fandom, but as it turns out, I still was not fully prepared for baseball fan fiction. If you've thought about it at all, you might expect to find quite a few tales of Jeter and A-Rod, and those are certainly there. But I was less braced for just how prominently players like, for example, Doug Mirabelli feature. You just do not ever expect to encounter the phrase, to quote one story, “Doug Mirabelli’s huge, unlubed…”
Well—Doug Mirabelli’s huge, unlubed anything, really. Let’s leave it at that.
Equally unexpected were the following slash fiction subjects, which I found on sites like “The Boys of Summer” and the “Baseball Fanfiction Archive”: Kyle Farnsworth and Pudge Rodriguez; Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra; Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff; Bubba Crosby and Chuck Knoblauch (posted in November 2010, so someone was thinking about this one for a while); and Melky Cabrera cheating with, of all people, Jaret Wright:
Jaret licked the cheekbone closest to him. “Melky?”
“I ... I don’t ...”
“What about Robinson?”
One LiveJournal user has for months been posting a now 12-part epic containing 70 chapters, in the form of IM conversations detailing the forbidden love between Ian Kinsler and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. From chapter 45:
I did not read far enough to discover how, or whether, imaginary Kinsler dealt with his imaginary beloved’s trade to Boston; one can only hope he finds a connection with imaginary Chris McGuiness.
I came across a story about Kyle Farnsworth and Vance Wilson, but it was labeled with a warning: “people who are squeamish about bloodplay, knives, severely disturbed mental states and semi-non-con (but only semi!) should not touch this with a 20 foot stick.” As that would include me—not to mention that, as a Yankees fan, I’m just squeamish about Kyle Farnsworth in general—I didn’t, and am grateful for the heads-up. Even in the name of scientific research for a column to advance baseball knowledge, I have my limits.
To be clear, this isn’t so squirm-inducingly uncomfortable because it’s about gay sex. MLB’s homophobia is pronounced, and the last thing I want is to reinforce it in any way. No, it’s because real people have been repurposed and fitted into other people’s fantasies—extremely personal fantasies—in a spectacularly odd way. It’s harmless enough. (Except in the unlikely event that, say, Vance Wilson Googled himself particularly thoroughly one day… yikes. The moral of the story, as always: do not Google yourself.) And obviously, people can write whatever they want, especially about public figures. But it still seems sort of presumptuous, to me, to use real people in your “bloodplay” fantasies anywhere outside of the safe confines of your own head. It’s not exactly wrong so much as it’s rude. Do whatever you want with Spock and Kirk; they’re imaginary to begin with. Once you rope actual humans into it, it feels like some kind of line’s being crossed.
Many writers seem aware of that, and post disclaimers like this one from the Cabrera/Wright story: "The boys own themselves. I like to play—but I always put them back nicely." I’m not sure what that accomplishes, other than legal cover, since no one was likely to take one of these stories as nonfiction reporting. And really, slash fiction tells us absolutely nothing about any of the players mentioned—and tells us way, way more than we wanted to know about the authors. Some stranger’s highly intimate fantasy about Bronson Arroyo does not feel like anything you should be able to stumble across online. But then, in a lot of ways, we all look at baseball players like characters in a daily soap opera, and maybe these stories are just taking that to its illogical conclusion.
Anyway, that’s where the discomfort comes from, I think, but also the humor, especially in the rather surprising choice of subjects. I just can’t say “Bubba Crosby slash Chuck Knoblauch” with a straight face. And for better or worse, it’s certainly it’s a testament to the diversity of baseball fans. For everyone who thinks Derek Jeter is dreamy, someone’s imagination is sparked by Eric Hinske, and in some ways that’s actually reassuring. I guess it takes all kinds, even the kind who imagines and then describes Kevin Millar having a drunken threesome with Keith Foulke and Jason Varitek, an image that, given the option, I would have preferred not to have introduced into my skull.
I think we each have our own individual worst nightmare about what someone might find on our web browsers. I had to revise and update my personal worst the other night, when a friend came over while I was researching this column, and went to use my computer—then immediately asked what the hell I’d been looking at.
“Nothing. Just open a new window.” But my friend was already reading:
When he got to Pedroia's pants, Derek teased him by slowly unzipping him...
“It’s for work!”
Then Derek found out how big the little man underneath him really was.
There’s no coming back from that one. Let someone catch you with Dustin Pedroia slash fic open on Firefox, and now matter how eloquently you explain the questing and curious nature of sabermetrics, they will look at you oddly for the rest of the night, if not the rest of your life. And here’s yet another sentence I could never have imagined myself writing two weeks ago, but: Thank goodness it wasn’t the Vance Wilson/Kyle Farnsworth story.
Emma Span has written for the Village Voice, the New York Press, Slate, and The Daily, writes regularly for Bronx Banter, and is the author of 90% of the Game Is Half Mental: And Other Tales From the Edge of Baseball Fandom, published by Villard in 2010. She lives in Brooklyn.