Secret Lives of Dorks

Jim Belushi (left) and Gaelan Connell star in "The Secret Lives of Dorks." (Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures / September 25, 2013)

Jim Belushi has a movie coming out where he plays—you guessed it—an obsessed Bears fan. The movie, "The Secret Lives of Dorks," hits theaters Friday and includes a cameo from Mike Ditka, who in the movie stars in a DVD series designed for people who want to learn from Da Coach. (The series includes "Ditka's Guide to Parenting," "Ditka's Guide to Talking to Women" and "Ditka's Guide to Trying to Date a Man Obsessed with Ditka.")

Belushi talked to RedEye about the movie, his life as a sports fan and the backlash he faced for lifting the Stanley Cup.

So they sent me the screener …

Oh you got a chance to watch it.

I did.

It's a fun movie.

It's not really my style, but it subverted certain expectations I had about how the characters were going to interact.

I see what you're saying, but I gotta tell you, I watched it with my 14-year-old girl—a pretty snotty 14-year-old kid—and my 11-year-old son and my wife, and I gotta tell you, I was shocked. These guys were laughing. My daughter and my son had big smiles on their faces and their eyes were real open. It shows you how into the story they were.


Do you have any favorite personal Ditka stories?

I have a story. It's a little long, but I'll give it to you.

I was shooting "Red Heat." We were shooting in Joliet with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Bears were playing the Giants, and I wanted to get out of Joliet to get to the game. It was a Monday night game. I was just anxious to get off the set, and the director said to me, "You're such a Bears fan, you should do a movie." He said, "Here's the movie. You're Jim Belushi the actor, and you're sitting with your wife, depressed. And she goes, 'What is it, Jim? What is it?' And you say, 'It's the Bears. It's just the Bears.' And she says, 'You know what? Why don't you just go play for the Bears? You know Ditka. Go ask him.' "

So I go ask Ditka if I can play, and he goes, "Sure Jimmy." And so I train with them for a little bit, and I'm going to be on special teams, and I run down the field, I'm on the right side of the field, and I get blocked out of bounds. But I'm the happiest man in the world.

So I tell Ditka this story, and he goes [big Ditka voice], "No, Jimmy! No, Jimmy! You don't get knocked out of bounds. You go right into the middle. You hit him low. You force a fumble. You pick up the fumble, and you run 10, 13, 15 yards into the end zone and you score! Because, Jimmy—[dramatic pause]—nobody remembers a loser. They only remember a winner." [Laughs.] I love that story.

In the movie, you teach your daughter to curse, which you say is part of good football watching. Were there any elements taken from your life as far as you watching football with your kids growing up?

Well, my wife is a very smart football wife. When I start watching on Sunday—and man, now you can watch from 10 in the morning until 10 at night—I turn around and everybody is gone. I don't know what she does, but she makes plans for the kids, and plans for her to be out of the house, because of my violent temper [laughs]—my bad language while I'm watching football. When you have young kids like that, it's hard to watch with them because you have to really control yourself. Always modeling. But when they're not there, it's a free-for-all. I have a couple buddies over here. We make sandwiches and watch and swear at the TV, and watch our fantasy teams. It's a great day.

There was one element that bugged me about the movie. There's a scene where your son comes in and he says, "What are you watching?" And you say "football." And he says, "Well, it's Wednesday." And you say, "It's an old game, from '85." And he says "The Super Bowl?" and you say "No." and he says, "A championship game?" and you say, "No, it's the Fog Bowl."

[Laughs.]

But the Fog Bowl was after the '88 season.

No! I thought the Fog Bowl was after the '85 season.

No no, it was '88.

Well then you're the only one who knows that, because I was the one who said "the Fog Bowl." Because that was a reference for Chicago fans. I have a buddy of mine who's a Philadelphia Eagle fan, and he's the craziest fan I've ever met. We actually did an episode on "According to Jim" based on him. When the Eagles are on defense, he's standing on the left side of the couch. When the Eagles are on offense, he's sitting on the right side of the couch. Special teams, he puts a leg up in the air. He's crazy. Nobody can be at home while he watches. He's the most intense, crazy guy.

So every time I see him, I go, "God, I can't see right now." "What's the matter?" "There's this fog – " "Oh stop it, Belushi!" [Laughs.] So I'm always teasing my Philly buddies about the Fog Bowl.

Your character's son, Payton, there are a few occasions where people say, "What's the worst that could happen?" and then he starts imagining all these horrible scenarios. In your head at the time, what was the worst that could happen if the Bears hired a former CFL coach to be their coach?

I actually thought it was really a smart choice. I read about his record immediately, and I thought "Wow, that's a really well-thought and surprising choice." The CFL is football, man. They're playing football. And also, he coached in the NFL. I like his demeanor. I like his tone. I like the way he thinks.

Listen, I loved Lovie. But he had nine years, and sometimes everybody needs to make a change. I did "According to Jim" for eight years, and you know, I couldn't get any more out of it. I was ready to move [on]. You know? [Lovie's tenure] was a great run, and I loved it. He took us to a Super Bowl.

Tell me about what lifting the Stanley Cup was like as a Chicago sports fan.

Well, to be honest with you, the photo is literally 15 inches from me. I'm staring at it right now. It's kind of an out-of-body experience, you know? You grow up watching them. I used to go to the games with [my brother] John. In'91-'92 I was the celebrity captain, and that's when we went to Pittsburgh and got shut out. And I know the Wirtz family very well, and I wasn't around in 2010 to see the last game.

I happened to be in Boston, and I knew they were going to win that night. And to be down there, an odd, quiet stadium [laughs] … I got to take my son. I got to talk to all of the players. I got to talk to Rocky [Wirtz]. And this little guy was holding the Cup over his head, and [Bill Smith] was there, the photographer. And I said, "Can you get a shot of me touching the Cup?" And he goes, "Pick it up." "No, no, no." And he goes, "Go ahead, just grab it."

So the guy in front of me was like dropping it, and as soon as he was dropping it I picked it up, I put it in the air, and I went [nuts] "Take the picture!" [Laughs.] I got in a little trouble for it, but I don't care. I mean, a once in a lifetime thing. This photograph will be 15 inches from me every day.

It's interesting that you said you got into a little bit of trouble with that. What did you think about that reaction from Chicago? Or to people who are like, "Why is Jim Belushi always repping the Chicago fan voice?"

Well, I hear that question differently. I hear the question as, "Why can't I be on the ice?" "Why can't I be holding the Cup?" "Why can't I get on the field?" I hear bitterness and jealousy. [Laughs.] I don't know. I mean, I'm just—I'm there.

Do you feel that that's unfair?

Oh, it's fine. I don't care. With the Internet now, everybody has a voice. Listen, it's true in news, it's true in newspapers, it's true on news stations, it's true on the Internet: people that are the meanest get printed. You know? There's haters out there. And I just give them love, hope they find something to settle their souls. I have, and I'm loving my life and I let people be.

And one of the reasons I like this movie so much is that it's a really good-feeling movie. It puts out good energy, good messages.

So what are the pros and cons of being a famous sports fan?

There's a lot of pros to it. I get great seats at sporting events. I get invited to all types of sporting things. I get to meet celebrities. To me, athletes are celebrities. I got a football signed by the entire 1985 Chicago Bears, got Michael Jordan on a basketball, and of course I have the great Marty McNeeley. He did the late night news on WGN years ago.

The only cons are—well, I'll give you an example. When I was the celebrity captain for the Blackhawks, in Pittsburgh [in 1992] in the first game [of the Stanley Cup Final], I was holding up a little board that said "Pass the Cup." The cameras were on me, there were interviews with me and stuff. And we got shut out, right? So I kind of made a little racket in Pittsburgh, because I was a celebrity captain at that time, and we swept Detroit, and we came in and got slaughtered. I had a bit of a voice so Pittsburgh kind of knew me, because they had me on news stations saying, "Pass the Cup!"

Cut to six years later, I'm jogging in California, a car slows down and is going a little faster than me. Rolls the window down. And he goes, "Pass the Cup ... to Pittsburgh!" [Laughs.] He never forgot me! So it's a little hard sometimes when you walk by Green Bay fans when you've lost, and they know you're a Bears fan, you know? [laughs.] It's all in good fun.

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @readjack.

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