The London Olympics Sap-o-Meter
NBC pours it on with a mom battling depression, the death of a beloved grandmother, and a thoughtful Grenadian.
As usual, it was sap-o-clock on NBC last night. There were challenging dives at the aquatic center and bitter memories from Beijing to be erased on the track. Bikers, divers, beach volleyball players, hurdlers, sprinters, and gymnasts showed spirit and determination in pursuit of their golden moment. But what really got the schmaltz leaking was a series of features built around tales of heartbreak and redemption. American hurdler Lashinda Demus, who battled depression after the birth of her twin sons, was shown advising viewers: “If your dream is to have a family, have a family. If your dream is to have a career, have a career. It’s no way that you shouldn’t be able to do both.” (Take that, Anne Marie Slaughter). Demus’ inspirational message, and others like it, brought the Sap-o-Meter’s final total to 46 Sap Points.
In Monday’s sap relay, Demus handed the baton to Dominican hurdler Felix Sanchez, who stormed to gold in the 400 hurdles. After the race, Sanchez pulled out a photo of his grandmother Lillian that had been concealed beneath the bib on the front of his jersey. “He found out his grandmother died the morning of the Beijing heats of '08,” Bob Costas explained. “Obviously, he was overcome by emotion when he made it to the top of the podium.” If it could, the Sap-o-Meter itself might have shed a tear.
The usually innocuous racing bib was the sappiest item of the night, as NBC’s Tom Hammond’s noted that 19-year-old Kirani James exchanged bibs with South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius in honor of his “courage in competing as a double amputee against able-bodied runners.” The 19-year-old James, the 400-meter-winning phenom who brought home his native Grenada‘s first-ever gold, was also responsible for the Sappiest Line of the Day. After the runner’s big win, Bob Costas told the story of James signing an autograph for a young Grenadian fan. The words he wrote: “Your mom is extremely proud of you,” a sentiment that prompted Costas to mush, “Tonight, an entire nation takes pride in James, gold medalist for Grenada.”
Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the London Olympics.
Katy Waldman is a Slate assistant editor.