Thursday Q & A: Aussie Packers Fan, Wayne Scullino
This week’s guest for the Thursday Q & A is Australian Packers Fan, Wayne Scullino. Now, Wayne isn’t just any fan. In 2007 Wayne sold his house, quit his job and along with his wife Kelly & two young children moved 28,000 miles to Green Bay to follow the entire 2007 Packers season, both home & away games. So settle in for what is one of our most interesting Thursday Q & A’s to date.
Whenever I think about what you did, uprooting the family and coming to another country for the sole purpose of following a football team I have two thoughts: 1) Wow, that’s some devotion you simply must respect & 2) Is this guy crazy? So we’ll start off with this question: What was the general feelings of your friends & family when you let them know you were undertaking such a journey of epic proportions?
Haha! Yeah, we sure did have our fair share of people in Green Bay that thought we were crazy; in a very friendly way of course!
As for our friends and family their reactions were mixed. There was no surprise amongst my friends and family that I wanted to do what we did. They were somewhat shocked that we actually turned around one day and did it though.
Kel’s family were a little more taken aback. They were worried about my giving up what was a very successful job and the fact that we were actually selling our house to do so. They showed equal parts of support and concern. Justifiably so.
On your site & I also recall an interview you did where you mention your wife was/is not a big sports fan. How hard of a ‘sell’ was it to get her on board with your plans or is she just that naturally adventurous/outgoing that she jumped at the idea as much as you did?
Let’s start this answer off by saying that I have the most wonderful wife a guy could wish for.
So far as a ‘sell’ I didn’t have to at all. Within an hour of having the idea at work I’d started emailing her tidbits of what I was thinking. By that evening she was all for it. Of course, she knew I wanted to get to Green Bay one day but for her it was more about the sea change. She was excited about leaving our lives behind us for a little while so that we could live somewhere else, experience a new life on the other side of the world and expose our kids, as small as they were at the time, to what the world has to offer.
Whilst I had the Packers as a catalyst to the idea, as a family, Kelly and I saw many benefits in just doing what we did. For us and for the boys.
I’ve spoken to quite a few people over the years about their first trips to Lambeau Field. What were your first impressions when you entered what is one of the meccas of the NFL?
This was an extraordinary feeling I have to say. I know it’s awfully clichéd, particularly when referring to Lambeau Field, but it’s quite difficult to put into words.
As most know already I’m not from Green Bay or the U.S.A and prior to this trip I didn’t have any friends or family from the area either. I was, quite simply, a kid from the other side of the world who grew to love this team for town that it was in and the history that it had built for itself. It’s important to establish that because the very feat of getting to Green Bay, that is; 3 flights, 24 hours and almost 10,000 miles from home, is a journey in itself. To give you some context, I was brought to tears just flying over the stadium. And they were blubbering, cover your face so the other guys on the flight can’t see you tears.
As for being inside, it was incredible. It was a 20 odd year dream come true and I was so mixed for emotion that the game itself barely registered on my radar. Even now, as I type this 150 yards away from the beach and 10,000 miles away from Green Bay is it difficult for me come to terms with the fact that I have actually been to Lambeau Field, eaten at Curly’s Pub and taken more than one stroll through the awe- inspiring Hall of Fame. It truly is one of the greatest sporting stadiums in the world of sport. I have goose bumps typing this.
If you had to pick one, just one, memory or experience from your time during that season in 2007 football related or not, that you cherish most what would it be?
Seriously? Just one? Let me run through a few at least before I get to the gold medal announcement.
There was flying over Lambeau Field and arriving in Green Bay to driving though town to our hotel and getting to Lambeau the very next day. There was my first game against Philadelphia and the New York road trip straight after that. There was the Denver overtime game, seeing Aaron play in Dallas and the NFC Championship game at a frozen Lambeau Field.
The gold medal moment though was easily Thanksgiving. Kelly and I have so many great memories of that weekend, the time we spent together as a family and the laughs we shared with our great friends Robbo and Tezza. (They’re our Aussie nicknames for Rob and Tari.)
Personally, I say that was my most cherished moment because it involved Kelly and the boys. I loved every single game I went to though for the most part they’re my memories. Thanksgiving, like seeing our first snowfall, trick-or-treating at Halloween and enjoying a white Christmas belonged to all of us though and that’s why it means more to me than the rest.
While you & your family were here, what was the biggest adjustment from a cultural standpoint you had to make?
Wow! We had to drive on the wrong side of the road and learn how to tip right from the word go. Also, the weather was a huge deal to us. We’d never been anywhere close to below zero let alone six foot deep in snow so by the time November rolled around we were like kids in a candy store.
The biggest adjustment though was our diets. One of our little ones has a number of allergies that we deal with on a daily basis so finding new food that we could trust was one of the first things we had to take care of. Of course the simple task of heading to the grocery store was tough too. Very little of what we were used to was available. There were alternatives for everything but we had to start from scratch with foods and brands that we had never seen before in our lives. Then there was the difference in meat and produce to what we were used to. In Australia we’re spoiled with some of the world’s freshest and most delicious produce all-year around.
Having said that, your milk and cheese was out of this world!
Now that you’re home, beyond much easier access to Packers coverage, anything in particular you miss about Green Bay, Wisconsin or the US in general?
Second to none we miss the friends that we have made. Whilst we were there I told anybody who was prepared to listen that this trip was always about more than football. It was about giving ourselves another place to go in this world and feel right at home if ever we needed to escape for a while. And to us, Green Bay, Wisconsin is absolutely that. We are extremely fortunate to come from where we do. Sydney is such a beautiful place but it’s a very big, very busy place at that. Green Bay is the exact opposite and often Kelly and I wish for a day or two there to get away from the hustle and bustle.
Once you did return home was the adjustment back to ‘real life’ difficult?
If I’m to be honest it was the toughest two years of our lives. We left knowing that I was a hard worker, leaving one of Australia’s largest and most respected employers with the expectation that it wouldn’t take long to fall back into that life upon returning.
In reality though, I found myself yearning for Green Bay upon our return and we found ourselves right in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis. By the time I did start looking for a new position I couldn’t find a company looking to employ. By contrast most Australian companies were letting staff go.
And with that the enormity of our sacrifice hit home. We’d sold our house, we had no money left and I couldn’t find a job. Things between Kelly and I became difficult and we struggled through the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009. Only in the last 18 months can I say that life is better than it has ever been and that we can look back and be stronger for the experience.
You made it back to the States this past Winter for the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV appearance & win. Share with us that experience.
Again, it was absolutely surreal. The day that I told Kelly we’d beaten the Bears to earn a spot at the big game was the day she told me that I had to attend. After a week or so of saying no, then yes, then planning as best I could I was on a plane and in Dallas.
I know that every Green Bay Packer fan in Green Bay, Wisconsin and indeed the entire U.S.A. would have loved to have been there. And that wasn’t lost on me for a second.
From kick-off to the moment Ben threw incomplete on fourth and six I was an emotional wreck. I cried to start with, I cried when we scored first and I was teary when we scored again. My excitement turned to horror as they bridged the gap in the second half and, you guessed it, I cried when I realised that we’d actually won the game.
I was an Australian at the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any more unreal than that.
You’re currently writing a book about your journey, when is that due out?
Of course the initial plan was to have it out at the end of 2008 but our situation through that year and the next put it on the backburner. Then, as it was starting to look good the Packers made their run through the playoffs and I found myself in Dallas with confetti flying everywhere. With circumstances changing this represented a great opportunity to tell more of our story over more than just the 6 month period that we were there.
So far as releasing the book, right now I’m pushing hard to have it out by the end of this year. I have a few publishers waiting to get a look at it and I’m still quietly considering putting it out myself. In a lot of ways I like that Kelly and I did all of this on our own. When the time comes we’ll make that decision though.
Beyond your book, any other current sports/Packers-related projects you’re working on?
I have two other books that I’d love to write but first things first of course. Outside of writing for myself I’d like to pursue writing or covering the Packers for somebody else one day. All in good time though. There’s only so many times you can sell your house and move to the other side of the world for nothing right!
If somebody came knocking with the chance of doing this full time though, I reckon we’d be there in an instant.
…and now for the lightening round.
Your all-time favorite Packers player is:
I have plenty but I’m an old-schooler. I love 80′s music, 80′s movies and the good old days. To that end I’d have to say Don Majkowski. He’s not the most decorated player but for me, that’s where it all started and I’ll hold on to that forever.
Your favorite Packers blog to read:
If there were no Packers, your favorite sports team would be:
I love the mighty Cronulla Sharks, my local team in the Australian National Rugby League competition. We live less than a mile from the stadium. They are currently ranked 14th out of 16 teams with a great chance of dropping those extra two spots to the bottom! That’s why I love our Packers that little bit more.
If you were a pro football player, your position would be:
Injured Reserve. I played quarterback, tailback and cornerback as a youngster. Constant dislocating shoulders though saw me watching more than I played in the end.
Should I ever run into you at a bar, I should buy you a _____________ for taking the time to answer these questions.
Berry Leinenkugels. I haven’t had it since we left and I’d absolutely love one.
Thank you Wayne for sharing so much with us today, just a really great story. Make sure to visit TheOnceInALifeTime.com site to keep up to date on Wayne, his family and upcoming news on his book. You can also find Wayne on twitter, @waynescullino . Now who’s up for shipping a case of Leines to Wayne?
Would you like to be the guest for a PocketDoppler.com Thursday Q & A? Let us know!