At some point, all of us face life-altering moments in our careers. How you react could literally change the direction your career takes. That was the situation that expense account manager Tracie Marcum faced when she was offered a chance at her dream career as a sports photographer -- but it would mean reliving one of the most painful moments in the life of the 37-year-old mom: her mother's suicide.
Marcum's dilemma was the highlight Thursday evening on the series premiere of the USA Network's reality show, "The Moment" -- hosted by former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner -- in which an ordinary American gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot at landing his or her dream job (as seen in the video above).
A Sports Illustrated magazine photographer, Lou Jones, asked the Alabama woman to take photos of a skeet shooting session at a gun club. That might sound like a reasonable try-out for a photog, but when Marcum was a young girl (she didn't say at what age) she saw her mother shoot herself to death inside their home. "I don't do guns," she told the camera. "If this is part of my assignment, I can't do this."
Marcum was visibly shaken and began to tear up as she weighed whether to walk away from the assignment that would force her to relive the most painful moment of her life. Marcum, a mother of two, called her husband who advised, "It's kind of a chance for you to come to terms with that memory." Jones, who -- as part of the show -- served as her "mentor," agreed: "This is something you've got to push through."
A show spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether the show's producers knew of Marcum's family history before filming. But her extended tryout runs the risk of rubbing the rest of America the wrong way, given the challenges of the "black hole" that many job applicants must deal with in a country suffering from an official unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. The network is planning to air nine episodes at 10 p.m. Thursdays (9 p.m. Central time) this season.
As for Marcum, she succeeded at the very challenge that's at the heart of sports photography -- capturing the moment of the action. For skeet shooting, that's when a shot hits its target, which in this instance was a clay pigeon. Little by little, she began flinching less while taking the photos. "You got that last one," Jones screamed out. "You may have what it takes."
Immediately after the review, Kurt Warner delivered the good news -- SI wanted to offer Marcum a job as a photographer. (Salary was not specified.) The magazine's offer was all the more impressive given that SI's publisher, Time Inc., let go of 500 employees in January during a round of layoffs. (Disclosure: This writer is a former Time Inc. employee but left the company long before that layoff.)
Warner, of course, knows a thing or two about landing dream jobs. After working in a supermarket bagging groceries, he rose to become the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV back in 2000. Having such a happy ending to a remarkable story, however, carries its own burdens, he said in an interview with AOL Jobs. "It got to a point where it felt, 'enough already,' with the supermarket stuff," he said. "Let me just do my thing."
For her part, Marcum was initially hesitant to accept the job, given that it would require relocation. But with encouragement from her husband, Marcum decided that she couldn't pass up her dream. "I work for Sports Illustrated," she announced with confidence.
Marcum worked at the magazine's New York office for six months before returning to Alabama. According to the show's spokesperson, Marcum is currently freelancing for the magazine covering college's Southeastern Conference.
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