My friend Tom Linnemann grew up in north Melrose and an adventure was to get on a bike and check out what the roughnecks were doing on the south side. He played quarterback successfully at St. John’s and then set out to continue an interesting existence.
Fortunately, he found a bride named Danica who should be beatified by now on the way to sainthood. She wasn’t on the trip with Tom and a friend as they visited areas of the Philippines, including an evening of watching small-person boxing matches.
“It seemed to be a very popular activity, with much wagering within the crowd,’’ Linnemann said. "I didn’t have the money figured out, so I didn’t know if I was winning or losing bets.’’
Danica was the companion for my favorite yarn from the Linnemann travels:
They were visiting Vietnam and Cambodia in January 2010. They were at Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, in northwestern Cambodia on the weekend of Jan. 23-24. Tom was aware the Vikings would be playing the Saints in the NFC title game on Sunday, the 24th, in New Orleans.
Tom told Danica: “We have to find a place to see the game.’’
The people at the religious shrine were asked the closest place to fulfill that wish, and the answer was: Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital that was 314 kilometers southeast … by bus.
“Danica wasn’t thrilled about taking a six-hour bus ride – commercial, not a tourist charter – to watch the game, but she understood,’’ Linnemann said. “In my lifetime, I’ve seen the corners of the world, I was at Game 6 with my dad to see Kirby, I’ve seen my two children born. I’ve still never seen the Vikings in the Super Bowl.’’
On the bus, the future St. Danica settled in and bounced along the roads to Phnom Penh. There was alleged to be a Cambodian version of a sports bar in the city of 1.6 million, and the Linnemanns were able to find it. The Vikings-Saints was indeed going to be shown, but on a delayed basis.
“We were in there with about eight ex-pats, and none of us knew what had happened,’’ Linnemann said. “Unfortunately, there was cell service. I got a text from my dad. It said, ‘The Vikings lost in overtime.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell the others, so I sat there cheering for the Vikings, knowing what was going to happen.’’
The few times I’ve heard that tale of fandom woe from Linnemann, I’ve thought of the Angelica Huston character in Buffalo 66, Vincent Gallo’s small, wonderful film on the complications caused when Scott Norwood missed the field goal and the Bills lost the Super Bowl after the 1990 season.
The Norwood character in the movie is “Scott Wood,’’ who is retired and owns a strip joint in Buffalo and revels in his image as the city’s football villain. And the Huston (Gallo’s mother) character: She sits in front of the television all day, watching a tape of the game, and cheering for the field goal to be good this time, thus providing a Super Bowl win for the Bills.
In the Linnemann movie, Gallo’s playing him, and he’s still in the bar in Phnom Penh years later, watching a tape of the Saints-Vikings and hoping that Dad’s text was inaccurate, and Brett Favre is going to complete that pass over the middle, and Ryan Longwell is going to kick a game-winning field goal to send the Vikings to a Super Bowl.
The real-life Linnemann celebrated a birthday on Wednesday in San Francisco, where the family has moved for his position with a start-up company. There are new adventures right at hand in the Bay Area.
The latest wasn’t quite the equal of a six-hour bus ride through Cambodia to watch a heart-breaking loss for his beloved Vikings, but it was close: Sitting in the “Black Hole’’ at the coliseum in Oakland for last Sunday’s game between the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“If you’re a football fan, you have to sit in the Black Hole with Raiders’ fans at least once, don’t you?’’ Linnemann said. “To add to the atmosphere, it was raining buckets. If you think those Raiders fans look dangerous on TV, you should be sitting with them when they have garbage bags over their heads trying to keep out the rain.’’
Linnemann convinced a couple of co-workers to go to the game for the “Black Hole experience.’’ They paid $160 apiece for the tickets, met a couple of Black Holers on the BART, and went to the rain-soaked tailgate before the rain-soaked game.
“Ninety percent of the people in the Black Hole are Hispanic,’’ Linnemann said. “You don’t have anyone preparing beef bourguignon at their tailgates. It’s beer, tequila and chips.’’
Linnemann and his partners made the strategic decision to arrive in newly purchased Raiders gear, including jerseys.
“I didn’t see one person all day wearing something red (the Chiefs color),’’ he said. “Raider fans don’t approve of that. The Black Hole was great. They became our buddies.
“I did learn one thing sitting there: Don’t bring up the Raiders moving to Las Vegas. I would call not mentioning that possibility in the Black Hole a safety precaution.’’