Tommy Kramer, who played in first Vikings game in London, watches this one with fans at a Wisconsin bar
Kramer was the starting quarterback for the Vikings when they played the first NFL game in London, a 28-10 preseason win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug 6, 1983. He threw the first touchdown
PRESCOTT, Wis. — The Minnesota Vikings won Sunday, and the beer was cold. What more could Tommy Kramer have wanted?
The former Vikings quarterback watched Minnesota’s 28-25 victory over the New Orleans Saints with fans at Lucille’s restaurant in Prescott. And with the game played in London, Kramer had a connection to that.
Kramer was the starting quarterback for the Vikings when they played the first NFL game in London, a 28-10 preseason win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug 6, 1983. He threw the first touchdown pass ever in the United Kingdom, hitting running back Ted Brown in the second quarter from nine yards out.
But what happened in the game isn’t what Kramer recalls most about that pioneering trip four decades ago.
“I remember they didn’t have cold beer then in London. It was room-temperature beer,” Kramer said. “So I put ice cubes in my beer, and that worked out just fine.”
On Sunday, Kramer watched the game while enjoying cold bottles of Miller Lite. He mingled with fans, signed autographs and cheered on the Vikings.
“I predicted it was going to be 27-24, Vikings,” said Kramer, who played for Minnesota from 1977-89 and finished his NFL career with one game for the Saints in 1990. “Right when I came in here, I told a guy, ‘It’s going to be 27-24.’ It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. That’s all that matters.”
The game started at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 8:30 a.m., not exactly your typical opening time for a bar on Sunday, even in Wisconsin. But Lucille’s made arrangements for Kramer to come in, opened more than 2½ hours before their normal time of 11 a.m., and a buffet breakfast was served along with entry for $25.
Attendance wasn’t great, with only 13 paid entrants. Along with those accompanying Kramer, there were more than 20 people on hand.
Also at the restaurant was Ed McDaniel, a Vikings linebacker from 1992-2001 who travels regularly with Kramer when they go to bars and restaurants all over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota for appearances. They travel in a custom purple limousine that features Longhorn steer horns on the front to honor Kramer, a native Texan, and an exterior adorned with the names of great former Vikings players.
The mood Sunday was festive, especially when the Vikings pulled out a dramatic victory when Wil Lutz’s 61-yard field-goal attempt on the final play bounced off the left upright and then the crossbar. And Kramer was happy to sign anything he was presented.
Carol Gilbertson, 75, of Beldenville, Wis., and Marlene Schmotzer, 77, of Red Wing, Minn., both had Kramer sign dollar bills. The idea came from Gilbertson.
“I have a dollar bill that was signed by (former Green Bay Packers quarterback) Bart Starr back in the ‘70s, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” said Gilbertson, a longtime Vikings fan. “I didn’t think of the dollar bill until I got here, and I had a couple of dollar bills.”
Gilbertson said she doesn’t have a Kramer No. 9 jersey, but she has a Chuck Foreman No. 44 jersey she bought in the 1970s. She wore that Sunday even as she joked it “fit a little better in the ‘70s.”
Longtime Vikings fan Rob Kammerer sipped a Blue Moon while chatting with Kramer. He figured the early start likely muted attendance at bars and restaurants to watch the game.
“I usually don’t drink this early,” admitted Kammerer, 39, of Prescott. “But this is an exception. When in Rome.”
As the game went along, Kramer offered thoughts on the action. And he looked back to the days when he traveled to London with the Vikings in 1983.
Kramer was glad he didn’t go over for a regular-season game. After all, that would have cut into time spent in the pubs.
“Watching this game makes you think of London,” Kramer said. “Even though we had to put ice in our beer, we did a lot of partying over there.”
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