The Olympics Sap-o-Meter
The Sap-o-Meter says an emotional goodbye to Vancouver. Plus: the Sappiest Word of the 2010 Olympic Games.
Posted Monday, March 1, 2010, at 8:32 AM
Check out Slate's complete coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In the final weekend of the Vancouver Olympics, everything was at stake for the Sap-o-Meter. With three days to go in the Winter Games, dad, dream, father, and mom were in a thrilling race to become the Sappiest Word of the 2010 Olympics. The Vancouver Olympics, too, had the chance to unseat Beijing as the Sappiest Olympics on record. For the Sap-o-Meter to hit an all-time sugar high, NBC needed to average a stirring 55 Sap Points per day through Feb. 28.
After Friday evening, the Sap-o-Meter's dreams had vanished. On perhaps the worst night for Americans during the Olympic fortnight, Lindsey Vonn veered off the slalom course, and Apolo Ohno got disqualified in the 500-meter short track finals. NBC's performance was just as underwhelming, with the peacock mustering a record-low 13 Sap Points. Skiing commentator Tim Ryan did give his best effort on our Sappiest Line of the Day, an emotional paean to Vonn's Olympic experience. "Tears of joy, not from pain or disappointment, are what Lindsey Vonn can now let flow freely," Ryan announced. (Emphasis on sap words is ours.)
NBC got slightly sappier on Saturday, buoyed by the United States' victorious bobsled team and the return of Canadian skater Joannie Rochette. A key contributor to the night's 28 Sap Points: golden, uttered just five times in the first 15 days of the Olympics, was heard three separate times in reference to Steve Holcomb and his four-man bobsled crew. Rochette—back on the ice for figure skating's exhibition gala—performed to Celine Dion, a "favorite of her late mom." Another mom, that of snowboard cross gold medalist Seth Wescott, was the subject of the Sappiest Line of the Day. "My mom, from the earliest days of my getting involved in snowboarding, is really the emotional cheerleader for me," Wescott explained.
On Sunday, NBC said goodbye to Vancouver with a look back at the Winter Games' best—read: sappiest—moments. With all the pesky athletic competitions excised from the evening's telecast, the audience was served nothing but a heaping bowl of condensed syrup. The result: a world-record 72 Sap Points, a fittingly saccharine end to two weeks of sugar-enriched Olympic fare. Like most record performances, this one required teamwork: 24 of the Sap-o-Meter's 35 Sap Words came out to shine on the final night of the Olympics.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee's John Furlong, who got the Games off to such a sappy start on Feb. 12, brought the sugar once again during Sunday's closing ceremony. "Athletes of the world, you promised you would play fair and you did," Furlong declared in the Sappiest Line of the Day. "At your hands and through your determination and tenacity we have felt every imaginable emotion. … By your example you have injected hope into the lives of youth everywhere. … Boys and girls you will never meet now know that it is possible to achieve greatness through the power of a dream."
With the torch extinguished on the Winter Games, it's time for the sappiest of our Sap Words to take the podium. In a strong field of medal contenders, dad (50 mentions), proud (47), and mother (43) finished just off the pace in Vancouver. Those three Sap Words will surely be looking for redemption in 2012. (Redemption, by the way, netted 17 mentions.) In bronze medal position, with 57 utterances during the Vancouver Olympics, was father. (The paternal MVP: Apolo Ohno's single dad, Yuki, who looked on from the stands as his offspring won three medals.) The 2010 silver medalist was the ever-present mom (60 mentions), the reigning champion from Beijing. And the Sappiest Word of the 2010 Olympic Games, snatching the gold from mom with 64 mentions: dream. The key to dream's success: NBC's Valentine's Day telecast, in which 14 dreams floated over the airwaves.
For a complete rundown of how many times each of our 35 Sap Words got mentioned during the Winter Olympics, click here. You can also get a sense of each word's frequency by looking at the word cloud below.
Final Sap Stats
671: The number of sap words uttered during NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage
39.5: NBC's average daily Sap Score
72: The highest daily Sap Score
13: The lowest daily Sap Score
14: The highest daily Sap Score for a single word (dream, Feb. 14 and father, Feb. 19)