By KC Joyner
The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon says any actor in Hollywood can be connected to Kevin Bacon via his or her film roles in six or fewer steps.
It sounds impressive at first and seems even more so when accessing a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon generator like The Oracle of Bacon. This site uses several Internet database files to determine how many levels are required to link any actor or actress to Bacon.
It doesn't take typing in many names to realize how difficult it is to get a Bacon number higher than two (meaning it takes only two steps to link the film star to Bacon). For example, the only movie 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld has ever acted in is the Coen Brothers' remake of "True Grit," yet her Bacon number is two.
The initial awe that this type of thing inspires tends to go away once one realizes this has less to do with the ubiquitous nature of Bacon's acting career and more to do with the exponential nature of social networks. Research is showing that it is very likely anyone in the world can be linked to anyone else in six steps.
The reason for bringing this up is that every year there are more than a few articles written about the overwhelming influence of the Bill Walsh coaching tree. Since both Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy (via his work with Paul Hackett) and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (via a Tony Dungy-Dennis Green link) can ostensibly be listed on the Walsh tree, it is almost inevitable that this game will be seen as another victorious branch of that genealogical chart.
Just as the researchers found Bacon's influence to be less than it was initially thought, upon closer examination of recent history it becomes evident that the Walsh tree is no longer the highest in the forest. That honor has to go to a Black and Gold oak with roots in the city of Pittsburgh.
To read all of KC Joyner's argument about why the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching tree is more influential than Bill Walsh's, you must be an ESPN Insider.