Hi! I'm a newbie but i think I can relate. Before I switched to Linux I tried to read as much as I can (though I can't say I understood any of it, hehe). I also had the same problem... at first i was trying to figure out which distro but then I realized i had an internal modem... an ESS S56***. There's bound to be some help at the linux documentation project site and at linmodems.org, or at your distro's site (I use RH7.1).
I have to agree that it would be a mission... mine was more like the crusades... yep, the ending was more like the crusades too -- my internal modem lost out. though there was a driver(?) available i just found it too difficult and that i was out of time... I hope it works out for you though