It all started

The headline in Packer Report said “Illness leads from Florida to Green Bay and back” and Al Pahl described my story as follows:

And it all started because Terry got sick the only other time he came to America.  Back in 1982, Terry & Margaret Ainsworth visited Florida, where Terry contracted some kind of virus, which kept him in bed for three days.  That’s when he turned to American TV.  “I was watching sports on television,” he recalled.  “Boxing and golf, big truck racing and a whole variety of different sports and finally college football”.

Since there was an NFL strike in progress there was no professional football, so he watched the college game.

I watched football and was fascinated because of the complexity of the game, it was like a game of chess and I vowed to find out as much as I could” Terry said.

So Ainsworth, who played soccer with a professional club back in England in his late teens, wrote to the National Football League upon returning to England.  In reply, he received some general information about the league and its 28 members.  “My great passion has always been history, sport, genealogy and tradition,” explained Terry, whose hobby of researching family trees included working on the Bullough family tree, which has its roots in Bolton, Lancashire about 30 miles from where Terry lives.  “It wasn’t a big step from that interest to begin following the Green Bay Packers because of their history and tradition.  I wrote to the Packers who responded with information about the club and included a copy of Packer Report to which I subscribed immediately.

One thing which always impresses Terry is that the Packer organisation always write back to him and he is in regular contact with the head coach.  Many of his friends who have the misfortune to follow other NFL teams cannot get a reply from their teams’ public relations office.  Arriving with wife Margaret and sons David and Paul in Milwaukee on October 3rd 1990, Terry didn’t get to Green Bay until October 10th and his first game trip didn’t occur until October 13th when he flew with me and General Manager of Packer Report John Weishar to Tampa for a meeting with the Buccaneers.  I must mention at this point that he had no hesitation in leaving his family behind in Green Bay in order to follow his dream of watching the Packers.  Terry was amazed by the number of Packer fans hanging out at the team hotel approximately 1,000 miles from the team’s base.  For lunch on Saturday we went to a 10-table joint on the water in Clearwater and no fewer than three employees, probably half the staff on hand at the time, were Wisconsin natives.  Terry and I both wondered though, why Clearwater makes drivers pay a toll to traverse a bridge labelled “Structurally Unsafe”.

Because of the extensive reading he’s done of Packer historical material, one of Terry’s holiday goals was meeting former Packer players.  Saturday evening, it was Tony Canadeo and Sunday morning Max McGee.

Tony Canadeo, another Packer icon, & Terry in the hotel before the game

Meeting up with a Packer “great”, Max McGee

Terry was surprised how tall Max was, I guess he expected him to be built like Sterling Sharpe or Perry Kemp but he was more like Nitschke.  Ah, yes, Nitschke.  Less than an hour after having his picture taken with McGee, Terry hopped in the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car with the legendary Nitschke for the short ride to the tailgate party and game.

And what a start to their meeting when Terry posed Ray his first question - what were you doing on November 2nd 1958?  Ray though for a moment and then said, “Give me a clue”.

Terry relented and said, “You were in Baltimore getting beaten 56-0 by the Colts”.  “That’s a hell of a way to start a conversation, said Ray, slow down Al this is going to be a special journey”.

Al Pahl said, “From then on those two guys in the back seat never stopped jawing and I just knew it was going to be a very special friendship”.


Photographed next to the Lincoln Town Car,
Ray and Terry pose before the tailgate party

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Design: David Ainsworth