My Sunday with The Disintegration Loops and the NFL
I am a member of a very specific cross-cultural intersection—I’m into both professional football and William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops. If you’re not familiar with The Disintegration Loops, it’s this minimalist ambient project that came out in the early 2000s and is essentially a musical metaphor for the eventual destruction and disappearance of everything in the universe. If you’re not familiar with professional football, it’s a sport/entertainment event during which large men hit each other and everybody yells. The two things almost certainly have nothing to do with each other, but while at my parents’ house this weekend I found myself with a copy of the reissue of Loops from last month and six hours of football to watch, why not combine the two? The moody, entropic droning of Basinki’s project wouldn’t get me fired up for big hits, but it wouldn’t be as upsetting as listening to the announcers going, “That guy right there, what a football player in the game of the National Football League” over and over again. What follows is a transcription of my thoughts as I watched America’s favorite sport while listening to what sounds like America dying.
10:21 – I’m watching Atlanta play the Giants on FOX, which is appropriate—I’m not sure there’s a running back that represents the inevitable decay of the universe and life than Michael Turner. He is churning forward into a wall of defenders for three-yard gains for all eternity.
10:22 – These refs are going to be looking extra old tonight.
10:33 – Eli Manning desperately flings a ball deep to Hakeem Nicks, but just like everything else in life it comes up short. We are all doomed to inevitable failure.
10:35 – Eli gets sacked in the most poetically depressing ways. It's like ballet.
10:38 – There’s no game on CBS where I am, so during commercials I’m flipping over to ESPN’s Sunday morning bowling. All of the bowlers look like they’re in so much pain.
10:44 – William Basinski clearly identifies with the stress of competing in a professional bowling tournament. There’s an oddly beautiful convergence between the music and the ball rolling down the lane to strike the pins, over and over.
10:46 – Back to football. Chris Snee, the Giants’ 300-pound guard, struggles to walk off the field with an injured leg—another commercial break. Back to bowling.
10:47 – Considering just sticking with the bowling right now. It’s amazingly compelling. Professional bowlers are failing to hit the pins; the music sounds as if it’s struggling to come through an enveloping fog. Somewhere, a bird dies.
10:53 – Something called “the Angry Whopper” appears on my television, the first track of Loops, “dlp 1.1,” enters its twilight. It’s now just a few patchy splotches of sound. This is what an Angry Whopper sounds like, I guess.
10:55 – Matt Bryant’s field goal to put the Falcons up 17-0 feels weirdly peaceful. The world should end with peaceful field goals.
10:56 – God there are a lot of Bud Light commercials. I wonder what Pitbull thinks about The Disintegration Loops.
11:05 – The Giants fail to convert a fourth and 1 right as “dlp 1.1” disappears into a mess of ruptures and bubbles. The tape dies. This is the way I should’ve been listening to William Basinski all along.
11:08 – It almost feels like The Disintegration Loops was composed as a tribute to second-string running backs.
11:18 – Eli Manning throws the ball to a halfback running a screen route, but the back doesn’t turn around in time and the ball bounces off of him and falls listlessly to the ground. It was the most Disintegration Loops play of all time.
11:20 – The Giants are playing like they’ve lost the will to live. And now it’s halftime. Time for a break.
11:38 – The second track, “dlp 2.2,” is far more anxious and nervy than “dlp 1.1.” Unfortunately, I’m stuck with this increasingly sterile Falcons/Giants game.
11:41 – Julio Jones catches a long touchdown pass while the music remains eerie and antagonistic, which makes it feel like his murder is imminent.
11:42 – I can’t decide if Tom Coughlin or Jason Pierre-Paul is more likely to murder someone.
11:47 – “dlp 2.2” makes it feel like your best efforts are useless, and in that sense it’s perfect for holding penalties as well as frantic audibles, confused receivers, and panicked coordinators. It matches the Giants pretty well, in other words.
11:55 – As this loop slowly and unceremoniously sheds all of its substance and matter, I find myself thinking about the career of Larry Fitzgerald.
11:56 – Also Stephen Jackson, Philip Rivers, and Larry Johnson.
11:58 – Eli Manning hurls an ugly shovel pass into the hand of a defensive lineman. Another failed fourth down conversion.
12:00 – The light in the Giants’ eyes have been extinguished forever.
12:02 – Matt Ryan completes a 40-yard pass to Harry Douglas on the first play after the turnover. No reason to keep talking about this one. I’m gonna go eat, and I’ll be back for the afternoon games, featuring my hometown Chargers going against the Panthers—easily one of the most characterless, ugly matchups of the year!
1:11 – Oh Jesus, is the Chargers game really blacked out?
1:13 – Yup.
1:17 – My dad and I are using a computer to, erm, “acquire” the blacked-out Chargers game from the internet. It’s a pretty crappy, laggy feed, so it’s the perfect medium in which to view San Diego football.
1:31 – A Philip Rivers fumble leads to a Mike Tolbert touchdown. I feel myself begin to disintegrate.
1:44 – The Panthers turn a lazy screen into a touchdown. The onetime glimmer of “dlp 3” is now a stuttering, sordid mess.
1:52 – This is the music of the checkdown receiver, the false start, the dropped pass. “dlp 3” is fading away into a beautiful memory.
2:00 – In some ways The Disintegration Loops is a perfect summation of football and hope. Everything starts out so beautiful, the you realize that it’s all a façade—pretty colors and bombastic noise hiding the fact that your team has no offensive line to speak of and no speed in the backfield.
1:43 – Next up “dlp 4.” This is actually the most violent of The Disintegration Loops. It disintegrates in a really visceral way. If your team is losing to the Carolina Panthers at home, it feels a lot like “dlp 4.”
2:03 – “God, what is this?” My dad is not into the music anymore.
2:17 – Watching the Chargers play football is like being lost in a desert.
2:21 – As I watch Philip Rivers get sacked again, and the seconds tick down to the two-minute warning, I feel like I’d rather be locked in a room with no natural light. We’re now on “dlp 5,” a smoky, shining glimmer. Everything feels ineffective.
2:28 – The last two minutes in a half are infinite, not unlike The Disintegration Loops.
2:36 – OK, halftime, gonna go think about life for a few.
2:52 – I’ve decided to cut my losses and watch whatever CBS considers to be the marquee game of the afternoon, and of course it is the Steelers and Cowboys.
2:57 – It is halftime in this game too. Troy Polamalu’s hair drifts in the breeze, as the blackness of “dlp 6,” the final track, descends upon Cowboys Stadium.
3:08 – I’m sitting here eating pretzels and watching ads for 2 Broke Girls ads. I feel calm, centered. This is the right kind of apocalypse.
3:12 – Tony Romo is really struggling to pass against the Steelers defense. The pain on his face is palpable. The shady nothingness of “dlp 6” makes it much worse.
3:15 – To be honest there’s something deeply calming about watching Tony Romo play. I think I identify with him.
3:21 – Existentialist feelings, “dlp 6,” and the inherently doomed nature of punt returns. Watching a Steelers player attempt to get up field, knowing full well he will be swallowed up by the coverage.
3:27 – Maybe it’s the joy of watching the Cowboys struggle, but “dlp 6” is strangely calming. I feel capable of love again.
3:32 – The final seconds tick out of “dlp 6,” and I have run out of disintegration loops. Everything is peaceful. I check the Chargers score to learn that the Panthers have 30 points now. That is OK. I feel nothing.
3:35 – I AM NOTHING.