The Olympics Sap-o-Meter: Tom Hammond, NBC's czar of determination.

Scenes from the Olympics.
Feb. 19 2010 6:50 AM

The Olympics Sap-o-Meter

Tom Hammond, NBC's czar of determination.

Though newly minted golden girl Lindsey Vonn made a brief return to the airwaves Thursday night, NBC lavished most of its attention on the men's figure skating finals. America's Evan Lysacek, Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, and Japan's Daisuke Takahashi came into the evening's free skate with virtually indistinguishable scores. In the end, Lysacek's technically flawless performance was good enough to edge out his Russian rival by just more than one point. Or perhaps it wasn't technique that won the American the gold. "All the determination of Evan Lysacek paid off tonight," explained NBC play-by-play man Tom Hammond.

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Although Lysacek vs. Plushenko was as dramatic as NBC could have possibly hoped for, the peacock did not overdose on sap. Thursday's total: a not-so-sweet 31 Sap Points, the lowest score of the Winter Games so far.

Thank determination, mom, and proud for letting the tally reach that high. Along with Lysacek, the ever-flamboyant Johnny Weir and Japanese skater Nobunari Oda—who had to pause in the middle of his program to fix a busted shoelace—earned plaudits for their determination from NBC's determination czar Tom Hammond. Hammond also uttered Thursday's Sappiest Line of the Day, though real honors belong to Lysacek's crochety coach Frank Carroll. "After the short program, when Evan was overcome with tears, [Carroll] wanted to say, Stop it, stop it!" Hammond relayed. Carroll's take on free skate waterworks was a bit different: "If he cries tonight and he wins, I'll let him cry for a long time." (Emphasis on sap words is ours.)

Before the Sap-o-Meter packs up its tissues for the weekend, let's take a quick look at the scoreboard. Dream, with 36 mentions to date, is the Shaun White of sap—a word that soars so high above the competition that the competition almost ceases to exist. Mom, always a steady performer, stands in silver medal position with 28 call-outs. Proud, dad, father, heart, and redemption are all vying for a podium finish as well. As connoisseurs of treacle know, those who seek Sap-o-Meter glory must have the courage, passion, and determination to finish strong in the Games' second week. We'll check back Monday to see how our brave words fared in NBC's Friday, Saturday, and Sunday coverage.

Previous Sap-o-Meter entries:

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Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.

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