There's been no shortage of programming catering to middle-aged men and women over the last -- say, when was the TV invented? -- but the Winter Games are dishing out entertainment to the 30- and 40-something demographics in a big way.
The stories are international in flavor, what with it being the Olympics and all, as Claudia Pechstein competed on the cusp of 50 and Ireen Wuest became the first athlete to win at least one gold in five Olympics, breaking a tie with legends Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, and Al Oerter.
Now look at Team USA, prepared to soon undergo a sort of incredible, dynastic changing of the guard but still buoyed by veteran energy from Shaun White, Lindsey Jacobellis, Nick Baumgartner, and Elana Meyers Taylor.
With age, in many cases, come families. And the 2022 Winter Olympics has seen no shortage of emotional family stories.
The Games started with skier Mikaela Shiffrin speaking near the anniversary of her father's accidental death and showed us new fatherhood within Team USA, as biathlete Leif Nordgren virtually attended the birth of his baby. And let's not forget Meyers Taylor's COVID-19 tests leading to her isolation from the family that joined her in China to watch her go for gold.
Baumgartner's stories include valley, peak of fatherhood
So, if your familial emotional strings hadn't been sufficiently plucked by the time Baumgartner's story took center stage, the orchestra was plenty warm for his tumultuous 48 hours on the snow.
It doesn't take extensive experience as a parent, guardian, or mentor to understand the depth of love a human can feel for a younger dependent. But if it did, it's fair to say Baumgartner's interview on NBC after elimination in men's snowboard cross sure goes a long way toward sufficiently telling the tale.
And even if you did watch Baumgartner's post-race talk with Hailey Hunter, there's a chance you tapped out before he got to an emotional gut-punch of a closing thought in referencing his child.
With Baumgartner already in tears, Hunter tried to reassure him by mentioning that his family is watching at home and very proud of him.
And you can see another wave of pain hit "Dad" as he speaks to his family halfway across the world.
Thank you guys. Thanks for the support. Landon, I love you, sorry bud.
The video went viral.
What was missing from the video was the context that Baumgartner's Olympic campaign wasn't over, as he showed off the team-first attitude that has made him a Team USA mainstay.
Baumgartner gave Jacobellis a lead in the Winter Games debut of mixed snowboard cross and the 36-year-old Jacobellis brought home the gold for the tandem. There was a camera on the 40-year-old Baumgartner as he cheered Jacobellis on until she crossed the finish line, helping her out of her snowboard to celebrate.
Even that was easy to miss, though, because so many of our minds were drawn to the crestfallen dad from just a few days prior.
"This gold medal is awesome, but [Landon]’s still the best thing that I’ve ever done and ever will do," he said, via Liam Nee. "For him to see me fight through that adversity and do stuff right before he’s about to graduate high school and go on to figure out what he’s going to do in life, is huge."
Maybe advancements in medicine and athletic training mean there will be more and more greybeard Olympians, so-to-speak, in future Games. Professional sports have seen Jaromir Jagr, Tom Brady, and Vince Carter stay on our screens well beyond the norm... but could they become the norm?
If so, perhaps the stories of the Baumgartners of the world won't be quite as rare, but we doubt it. Here's to the triumph of the will, and setting a fine example for the next generation, related or not, through defeat and victory.
For every inspirational moment athletes give to kids, this Olympics has done plenty to bring inspiration to an older generation of Americans. To that, we send a virtual high-five across the world to Baumgartner, Jacobellis, and the rest.