Posted by: Ethan Johnson | November 3, 2010

What’s With the Shipping, Homes?

Question: Why do people “ship” female athletes?

(Where “ship” is short for “relationshipping”. An example from the popular culture was the “shipping” of Mulder and Scully on The X-Files by a percentage of the fan faithful.)

This is going to be one of those “citation needed” pieces by design, as I am uncomfortable with pointing fingers at specific people, as it makes it about them personally and not the behavior in question.

In male terms, a former co-worker and friend of mine used to call any act that could be construed as gay as “homesing”, which I assume means “acting like a homosexual.” And as a male, I would never sit down and watch a sporting event and announce that I am “shipping Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, I mean, come on, Captain Obvious.” My friend, at best, would have brushed off any touchy-feely stuff by two men as “homesing” and moved on.

So what is it about the WNBA or WPS that compels one to declare an interest in “shipping” two or more players?

The breaking point for me came when – and I’m not sure how to veil this to protect the guilty – someone “shipped” two female sports writers. Not sure why this was needed, by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

So I’ll stop ranting into the void and await an answer. Why “ship”?



  1. “And what fastens attention [..] like any passage betraying affection between two parties? [..] We see them exchange a glance or betray a deep emotion, and we are no longer strangers. We understand them and take the warmest interest in the development of the romance. All mankind love a lover.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Stolen completely from the article on shipping at

    That seems to say more than I possibly could about the phenomena, and says it very well.

    Funny that we seem to see athletes as characters in a drama, but maybe inevitable given the marketing of leagues and it’s stars.

  2. What makes you think it’s only female athletes? It’s not, trust me.

    But to answer the question, people ‘ship real people- or, more precisely, their perceptions of real people, or alternate versions of real people, however in the holy bleeping bleep you want to phrase it- for the same reasons that they ‘ship imaginary characters. They see something and they want to write it.

    Would I “sit down and watch a sporting event and announce that I am shipping” anybody? No, probably not, not unless I was among like-minded company, because there are certainly different ways to watch a sporting event and I wouldn’t want to impose *my* way of watching an event on someone else. Is it a valid way of watching an event? YES, DAMNIT.

  3. I guess it’s just not my bag. Shrug.


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