Dear Media Overlords, Please Let Us Watch Sports Without Commentary

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Some years ago, CBS or Fox had technical difficulties during a football game that resulted in the commentator audio being cut out. It was probably the most enjoyable game of football I ever watched because it was possible to actually become immersed in the on-field action.

Think of all the sports you’ve watched. Now ask yourself, how many of those events were made better by the inevitably inane commentary that accompanies them on? Odds are the answer is none. Let’s use football as an example, specifically the man pictured above, the legendary John Madden, whose commentary style was so in-your-face-obvious, there was even a term coined for it: Maddenisms.

This also applies to hockey, basketball, the UFC, probably even baseball. But what if it was possible to watch without the inane blabbering? Sure, there was a time when commentary was necessary to tell you what’s going on; that was before the advent of 60″ 1080p flatscreens with more real estate than the apartment its sitting in. Today’s TVs can handle all of the graphics the production guys in the trailer can throw at them without getting in the way of the action. And the technology for multiple audio feeds certainly is out there. Hell, I’d even be willing to pay extra money to watch the Anaheim Ducks crush the Canucks without having to listen to John Ahlers and Bryan Hayward or see someone gets knocked out in the UFC without the same repetetive commentary from Mike “John Madden of MMA” Goldberg and Joe “I’m always stoned” Rogan.

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Sure, I’d miss out on the occasional gem like Joe Buck’s “That is a digusting act,” but the upside is not having to listen to Joe Buck talk the rest of the time. So I ask you, oh media overlords, please give us this option. Don’t ask why, just put it out there and take our money.

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Cyprus’ Bank Bail-In and -Out: The Euro Crisis Exits the Danger Zone, Goes Where Dragons Be

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Over the weekend, the Euro’s ongoing crisis crossed into a new dimension, one that I don’t think anyone ever saw coming. While most of the attention has been focused on the so-called PIIGS (or the GIPSIs, if you want to be edgy about it), shit had quietly been hitting the fan off the southern shore of Turkey in tiny little Cyprus. With a population of less than a million and a GDP of just $24 billion, Cyprus isn’t actually supposed to matter — and in a sane world, it wouldn’t. But we don’t live in a sane world, we live in this one, and because someone thought it was a good idea to let this island nation that has more in common with Bosnia (it’s been partitioned in two since a dust-up between the Greeks and Turks in 1974) than a North European Social Democracy and is used as an offshore haven by countless Russians (and more than a few Brits) into the Euro. Because of that, Cyprus matters. A lot.

Because it was used as an offshore haven, Cyprus’ financial sector grew to be far bigger than the country’s GDP. As with the afore-mentioned PIIGS, this sector fell victim to the fallout from the Great Recession and despite a Russian loan and other measures, now needs a bailout (or so they say). But like Iceland in 2008, the Cypriot government doesn’t have enough money. Unlike Iceland, Cyprus can’t just let the whole thing be drowned, and not just because the main creditors of its banks are unfriendly Russians instead of Britons and Dutch looking to get a couple extra percent on their savings (though that is actually quite relevant). The main reason why is because Cyprus is in the Euro and thus its fate is tied to the fates of Germany, France, Spain, et al.

Why isn’t Cyrpus just getting a check from the ECB in exchange for some “austerity measures” like Greece or Portugal before it? Simple: there’s an election in a few months in Germany and nobody wants to bail-out anyone else, especially the aforementioned unfriendly Russians. The money still has to come from somewhere and so a plan B was devised: Cypriot account holders get “bailed in” via a confiscatory levy on their accounts (in exchange for their money, they’d get some worthless stake in their bank and possibly a gas voucher) to the tune of 6.75% on accounts of under 100,000 euro — this is the important figure because 100,000 is the threshold for Cyprus’ deposit insurance (their equivalent of the FDIC) — and 9.99% on accounts above that threshold. Naturally, as soon as people heard of this scheme, they lost their minds, in large part because their deposits are supposed to be insured by the government and are thus risk-free.

The various developments since then don’t actually matter because the symbolic dam has been broken by the violation of the trust in the government bank insurance scheme in a country that hasn’t been written off as a corrupt banana republic, mainly because it’s part of a currency union of “trustworthy” countries. Now, you’ve got a breach of the trust in deposit insurance schemes not just in Cyprus, but in the entire Eurozone and possibly the entire “developed” world. After all, if the government can take 6.75 euros out of every 100 in Cyrpus, it can do so in Italy, or Spain, or any other crisis-hit nation.

Side-effects didn’t begin to kick-in right away. The euro slid only modestly against other currencies, partly because Cyprus extended its bank holiday because parliament wasn’t able to pass the bail-in bill (the immediate emptying of ATMs and spreading protests likely had an impact), but don’t be surprised to see people start to freak out in other euro-zone nations at the first sign of trouble in the future because the Euro crisis found the end of the Danger Zone, but that end is labeled on the map only as “there be dragons.” Due to the entrace into this forbidden land, the unshaking and unwavering trust and faith in government deposit insurance schemes, and thus banks as a whole, well, as was so eloquently put inĀ the brilliant “Margaritaville” episode of South Park…it’s gone.

In case you’re still confused, this London cabby will explain it for you. Just hide the children before you press play: