Interview: Jay DeMerit's soccer story merits the big screen

Jay DeMerit

Jay DeMerit (Photo courtesy of Bell)

You can understand why Jay DeMerit didn’t initially jump at the opportunity to make a documentary about his life.

Sure, the UIC alum knew his story was worthy of the big-screen treatment — it’s not every day that someone who went undrafted by Major League Soccer moves to England with just $1,800 in his pocket and ends up starting in the prestigious Premier League and World Cup — but the self-promotional aspect of the film pitch made DeMerit uncomfortable.

“I think it’s a little strange to get behind a story that’s about you,” DeMerit said over the phone from Vancouver Thursday, where he now plays for Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps. “And I knew I would have to be the vehicle to promote the film. I’m not really that kind of guy: ‘Go out and look at me.’

“But knowing soccer and having played it for many years, I knew how unique the story was and decided to get on board.”

With the help of a former UIC teammate and his friend, DeMerit and Co. got to work on the documentary shortly before the 2010 World Cup. There was just one problem: the rights to soccer footage are expensive — $20,000-for-one-minute-of-Premier-League-action expensive.

Rather than have an investor foot the bill and dictate the direction of the film, they devised a plan to have fans donate to the cause on an established website, Kickstarter.com. They had a goal ($215,000) and a deadline (July 18), but even DeMerit — the same guy who lived in an attic in England and survived on beans and toast to make his soccer dreams happen — had his doubts throughout the donation process.

“If there’s one thing I am, it’s realistic,” DeMerit said. “I may have had big dreams and big ideas, but ultimately I was realistic it might not happen. A lot of people don’t know if you don’t reach the goal (by the deadline), kickstarter gives all the money back.”

In the end, soccer fans — including “Saturday Night Live” star Seth Meyers and Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo — and players, including DeMerit’s U.S. teammate Stuart Holden — donated $223,422 in about two and a half months. DeMerit admitted he became emotional when he received the news at practice.

“I shed tears,” said DeMerit, who was injured at the time. “I sat there on a bench watching training by myself, and I couldn’t believe all the people who made this story happen. That hit home.”

“Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story” will screen in a limited number of Chicago-area theaters Thursday and Nov. 10 (go to jaydemeritstory.com to find a screening). It very well could have been a scripted film, but DeMerit passed on a separate pitch because he felt a documentary would be more appropriate in this case. Still, he knows exactly who he would have wanted to play him if the movie had been given the scripted treatment.

“I would say me,” DeMerit said. “Hey, Eminem got to play himself in ‘8 Mile.’”

Corgan backs Epstein: Like most Cubs fans, Billy Corgan is excited about the Theo Epstein era. The Smashing Pumpkins front man believes Epstein and the two World Series rings he earned with the Boston Red Sox give the Cubs something they’ve been lacking: Credibility.

“One thing I’ve learned in my many years in the entertainment business, credibility is a lot more important than fans give it credit for,” Corgan said over the phone Friday while promoting Resistance Pro Wrestling, which debuts at Excalibur Nov. 25. “If someone is going to convince you to come to a team that hasn’t won in 103 years, you have to believe in him."

Corgan wasn’t ready to make any bold World Series predictions – after all, this is the Cubs we’re talking about -- but he admitted he is more confident in the team than he has been in the last decade.

“I think the Cubs are in a much better position to win the World Series than they were in the last 10 years. As much as the team was winning (in 2003, 2007, 2008), they also had this psychological fragility,” said Corgan before referring to the Red Sox's 2004 American League Championship Series. “It’s tough for a team down 3-0 to come back against the Yankees. I think Epstein brings that credibility to the organization."

About this week: The Cubs' Ryan Dempster will host a fundraiser for 22q11.2 Deletion (also known as DiGeorge Syndrome and VCFS) at The Palm Restaurant in Swisshotel Chicago Thursday. Former Cubs players Mickey Morandini, Todd Hollandsworth and Mike Bielecki are expected to attend. To purchase tickets, go to dempsterfamilyfoundation.org.

Sightings: The Green Bay Packers' Charles Woodson and the Blackhawks' Duncan Keith dined at Japonais Friday and Sunday, respectively. ... The Miami Heat’s Juwan Howard dined at Paris Club Saturday. The Bulls’ Luol Deng and Omer Asik and the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were spotted upstairs at Studio Paris later that night, as was the Packers Jermichael Finley, who was wearing a lumberjack Halloween costume. Former NFL star Warren Sapp visited Studio Paris Wednesday and Thursday. Golfer Luke Donald was spotted at Paris Club and Studio Paris Friday. 

Twitter @aboutluisgomez

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