The Treasure of Botched Opportunities


By Kirk McCarley,

In a 1994 magazine interview, actor Kevin Bacon mentioned while discussing “The River Wild,” that “he had worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who’s worked with them.”  Following, a lengthy newsgroup thread ran titled “Kevin Bacon is the Center of the Universe.”  That same year three college students invented the game that became known as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” after seeing two television movies featuring Bacon.  During one film the students speculated on how many movies Bacon had been in and the number of people with whom he had worked.

Fleeting fame followed with the inventors going on to not only release the board game, but a book about their discovery.  Although Bacon initially disliked the concept because he thought it mocked him, he eventually came around to laugh along with the ribbing.

In fact, he further embraced it by forming a charitable initiative,, a social networking service intended to link people and charities to each other.

Recently, I was facilitating a corporate retreat.  Following a break, I asked members of the group to identify the most famous person they had encountered.  For some, it took a while. After a moment, a volunteer shared “Peyton Manning.”  Another yelled out a racecar driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I believe it was.  “Garth Brooks,” voiced another.

What would be your response?  What was the brush with fame like?  Was your heart a flutter like a screaming, fawning teenage girl at a Beatles appearance in 1964 or were you agnostic to the notion of “celebrity?”  What does our reaction say about us?  And, if given the opportunity over again, what would you do differently?

These so-called “famous” people we meet become a part of our story.  Though we want to put them on a pedestal, deep down there are elements of humanness and longing for connection.

My friend muffed one opportunity. Some years back, he upgraded his flight to first class, looked up and recognized immediately who was going to be sitting next to him for the duration of his flight. So starstruck was my usually affable comrade that for two hours he was unable to muster even a hello to fellow passenger, Hank Aaron.

That episode was later remedied while performing production work for ironically a baseball broadcast. For a half hour he was treated to a most intimate and collegial conversation with another legend of the game who regaled him with stories as if he were an old friend. His new acquaintance, Vin Scully.

During the late spring 60 years ago I was traveling by car with my parents along the vast, hot, and treeless plains of the Texas Panhandle. As a salesman my dad had a “territory” and he took the family along during the summer months. Most of what I recall about those car trips is tedium and a lack of air conditioning. My dad, being a curious mind, learned that a movie was being filmed in the area and found out that the set was en route to that night’s destination. The motor hotel up the road would have air conditioning and promises of a meal, and perhaps ice cream, but NO we were going to pull over to this dumb set. Dad fetched his favorite Kodak equipment, meaning I was likely to be posed for a shot. Yuck! On top of that he had the audacity to approach one of the people on set and asked him to “take a picture with my boy.”  By then, hot, hungry, and on the verge of tears, I protested by throwing a tantrum during the shoot.  The actor beside me, not to be denied the spontaneity of the opportunity, did likewise.  The result was not only my brush with fame, but what many years later has become a treasured heirloom. The moral is some of our best moments come unexpectedly.  Treasure your botched opportunities, even your worst moments. You never know how the brushes with fame will become part of your story.

The Treasure Of Botched Opportunities
Years before salad dressing and race car driving Paul Newman demonstrates his humanness by mimicking the author’s monstrous fit during a break in filming “Hud,” June 1962.

A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk McCarley is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified. He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning instructor. Contact,, or call  314-677-8779.

SWal Life
Author: SWal Life