A Digression on In-N-Out

Nebraska’s hiring of Mike Riley and his reported love affair with In-N-Out Burgerd has raised an old puzzlement of mine. One that manifested soon after moving to Los Angeles 15 years ago.

In-N-Out. What’s the big fucking deal?

Mike Riley digs into a double-double.
Mike Riley digs into a double-double.

Now, for those of you who regularly read this blog, you probably noticed that we typically write in first person plural. In this case, I’m going singular because Big Red Fury is divided on this issue. Just wanted to be clear.

For folks who’ve never seen In-N-Out’s most popular sandwich (the Double Double — which if you ask me, should mean FOUR patties, not two) here it is.

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Yep. That’s what all the fuss is about. And I say “fuss” because I just don’t get it. The same way I don’t get why “Crash” won Best Picture in 2005. It’s a patently unremarkable movie. Just as the Double Double is an unremarkable burger.

It’s not a bad burger, by any means. I ate probably a dozen of them during the ten years I lived in California. But that’s just 1.2 a year, despite having had an In-N-Out five blocks from my house for four of those years.

As I think about it, the Double Double is really the Bo Pelini of burgers. As satisfying as any 9 or 10 win season, but — gosh darn it — never rising to a level of greatness.

How’s that for irony?

But mention In-N-Out to any native Californian, whether living there now or transplanted somewhere else, and their eyes will immediately roll into the back of their heads, their jaws will dip down to their sternums, drool will spill out and they will utter in one octave lower than their usual tone of speech “Ohh God! Double Double’s soooooooo yummy!”

I guess. If you say so.

Now, initially I figured maybe because California is not in the beef belt people there aren’t use to “grade A” red meat the way we are back in Big Red country and that’s why West Coasters have gone nuts for a decidedly average hamburger. But no. Most of the Nebraska transplants I knew living in the LA basin were also gaga for double doubles. And since moving to Omaha, I’ve listened to no less than three native Nebraskans still living in Nebraska get as gooey for In-N-Out as anybody.

To each their own, obviously.

On one level, I guess I can relate, because I’ve professed my love for Runzas to non-Nebraskans before only to be met with a “what’s the big fucking deal” expression in response. And to me, if you don’t like Runzas, well then you’re just an asshole. Probably a pretentious one, too.

So far as I know, Mike Riley hasn’t given his verdict on Runzas. But I hope he likes them, because I really want to like Mike. And I can appreciate the idea of knowing the head coach’s favorite food. It makes me think of when Ronald Reagan was President and everybody knew that he liked jelly beans. The press of the 1980s was so transfixed by this tidbit that they were sure to ask Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, what his favorite food was right off the bat. Bush 41 said, “Pork rinds.”

Somehow this was not as charming as jelly beans. And so the press never bothered to find out what Clinton’s, Bush 43’s or Obama’s favorite snacks were (although I’d bet hard money that W’s was not pretzels).

I do wonder what Mike will do now that there is not a single In-N-Out Burger joint in the entire Big 10 footprint. The nearest restaurants are in Dallas and Salt Lake City. Not exactly wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-kill-your-craving distance. But then, there are no In-N-Outs in the state of Oregon, either. So I suppose Mike probably knows how to bed his appetite back down when he needs to. But without the option of getting a fix at least on conference road trips, one has to wonder how long before the new “Most Important Man in the Entire State of Nebraska” goes stark raving crazy.

I guess he’ll have to stock up during his West Coast recruiting trips. Just as long as he doesn’t let slip Lincoln’s lack of double doubles to those In-N-Out crazy California prospects.

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