RICK MORRISSEY: Bill Bellis is the anti-Freeze
RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 15, 2011 1:22AM
AMY FREEZE, the new chief meteorologist at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32:
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:39AM
There isn’t much Bill Bellis could have done differently. OK, maybe he shouldn’t have sent a shout-out to his wife and two children during his first sideline weather report at the Bears’ home opener. Maybe it was a bit too soon for that.
But the booing didn’t rumble down from the Soldier Field seats because of his enthusiasm. No, the booing started because the meteorologist on the giant video screen wasn’t Amy Freeze.
Bears fans really liked her dew points.
It’s the Fox-32 weatherperson’s job to use the stadium public-address system to deliver the forecast during home games. So when Bellis took over in February for Freeze, whose contract hadn’t been renewed, it meant he would be the one standing in front of 62,000 fans at Soldier Field.
Most of the boos seem to be of the baritone variety.
Bellis is a good sport about this. Freeze is an attractive woman, and when he looks in the mirror, he can’t help but notice that he is not.
‘‘I’ve been in this business 15 years, and you’ve got to have thick skin,’’ he said. ‘‘So when I was told I was going to do this and I’m not some hot female sports sideline reporter, mentally I knew going in that it was going to be a little rough.
‘‘It’s a tough crowd. This is a town where it revolves around the Bears. It’s a sports crowd. It’s something that I expected. I just go up there with a great attitude. I put a smile on my face.’’
Fella can’t catch a break
He’s supposed to give his live weather update during the fifth break in the action, which usually comes late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter. He has been the victim of some unfortunate timing.
Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, Bears defensive back D.J. Moore returned an interception for a touchdown. Nobody was more excited than Bellis, who was due to give his forecast.
“I’m like, ‘Yes! Perfect timing! The crowd has to be in a good mood!’ ’’ he said. ‘‘And then, sure enough, they push me back a break. Carolina comes down, scores and kicks the extra point. Then it’s, ‘Let’s go down to Bill.’
‘‘I’m telling the crowd, ‘Hey, sunny and great for the next 10 days, and don’t forget to watch tonight! Brian Urlacher will be in the studio!’ It didn’t matter.’’
The booing was, shall we say, vigorous.
Something similar had happened the week before. The Green Bay Packers were facing a third-and-15, and all that’s separated Bellis from a happy crowd was a defensive stop by the Bears. Uh, sorry, no. First down, Packers. Timeout on the field. Time for Bellis and the weather. The crowd gave him a dark and stormy reception.
Bellis has some athletic credentials. He was a wide receiver for two years at Division III Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., before transferring to the University of Arizona to study atmospheric science. His father was the head football coach at Deer Park (N.Y.) High School for 33 years.
The Soldier Field crowd seemed much more impressed that Freeze was a cheerleader at Brigham Young University.
‘‘I’ve been around sports my whole life,’’ said Bellis, who came to Chicago from the ABC affiliate in Phoenix. ‘‘I completely understand. I don’t hold anything against the fans. I don’t think it’s anything personal against me. I just think it’s, hey, they want a female.’’
Caught up in the emotion of the pregame remembrance on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, he decided to say hello to his wife, his 7-year-old daughter and his 4-year-old son during the forecast. He mentioned it was their first Bears game.
‘‘That’s kind of when the booing started a little bit,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of people had never seen me before. So it was kind of like, whoa, who is this guy? That was just me. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just wanted to say hi to my family.’’
Afterward, he went into the stands, where his wife told him he had done a good job and his daughter asked him why some people were booing.
‘‘I said, ‘Daddy’s new in town. I’m not a pretty girl on the sideline,’ ” he said. ‘‘My wife was laughing.’’
Freeze, now the weekend meteorologist at WABC-TV in New York, declined comment.
The question now is whether this is something that will blow over like a quick rain shower or linger like a stalled weather system over Soldier Field. Freeze had the sideline duty for four seasons. Sunday night’s matchup between the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings matchup will be Bellis’ fourth home game.
‘‘Of course, I hope to win them over, but my focus is to do my job, give them an accurate forecast and hopefully, one day they’ll say, ‘Bill said sunny and 70, let’s give it up for him,’ ’’ Bellis said.
Until then, bundle up, Bill. It’s cold out there.