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Alums hope burger Eagles’ only defeat

FRIDAY, JAN. 7, 2011

Ralph Walter, left, and Jess Walter plan their attack on the El Jefe Grande at Kenny’s Burger Joint on Thursday.  (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Ralph Walter, left, and Jess Walter plan their attack on the El Jefe Grande at Kenny’s Burger Joint on Thursday. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

FRISCO, TEXAS, US of A – All day long, the anticipation weighed on us. Would we be ready? Were we up to the challenge?

Not the big game. That’s today, when our beloved alma mater Eastern Washington University plays the University of Delaware in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game.

No, what we were nervous about was the big burger.

It’s called El Jefe Grande, and it’s the pride of Kenny’s Burger Joint here in Frisco. It weighs in at a full 7 pounds (roughly the size of EWU’s superstar linebacker J.C. Sherritt.) The El Jefe is 7,000 calories and features 3 pounds of beef, a half-pound of bacon, french fries, jalapeños, onions, and other fixings all slammed between two mattress-size slabs of Texas toast.

Ralph agreed to tackle this $50 monster if I’d pay for it. Before you scoff, know that Ralph’s eaten some prodigious meals over the years. He once devoured the Wolf Lodge Rancher – an artery-busting 42-ounce porterhouse steak, along with a baked potato and salad (he used the lettuce to wipe the sweat off his brow) just two hours after enjoying two slices of pizza and four beers at a music festival. Another time, in Las Vegas, he ate a 1.5-pound hot dog. For breakfast.

But we knew the El Jefe Grande would be his ultimate challenge – Moron vs. Food. If he could somehow master the big boss of burgers in less than an hour, not only would the burger be free, we’d get a $100 gift certificate.

That alone was reason to not finish the burger; it meant we’d have to come back to Frisco.

This Texas is one nutty place. There’s a Baptist church on every corner. Bars close insanely early (Ralph overslept and we missed last call). We did make one friend here, but he was executed later in the day.

And Frisco is an especially bizarre city, a charmless exurb of Dallas – the place sprawl goes to sprawl. It’s like a Japanese horror movie in which radiation causes a strip mall to grow into some kind of monster.

On Thursday we prepared for the game by watching walk-through practices by Delaware and Eastern (both teams looked pretty slow).

After seeing both squads, we like our chances. We think EWU’s defense is the key. In a game earlier this year, defensive lineman Renard Williams hit an opposing fullback so hard he split into two halfbacks. Another time, they untangled a pile after a Tyler Jolley tackle and found the referee, the head linesman and Jimmy Hoffa. And J.C. Sherritt? When he gets pulled over for speeding, the police officer gets off with a warning.

We also compared the two schools. Admittedly, Delaware is bigger, older and more prestigious than Eastern. The average SAT score of incoming freshmen is a whopping 1,795 (Eastern students average 98.6, unless they spike a fever.)

Joe Biden is probably Delaware’s most famous graduate and is even scheduled to attend the game. According to Wikipedia, he graduated 506th out of 688 in his class. That’s a tough school, when the vice president of the United States can’t crack the top 75 percent. Another Delaware graduate is Richard Gore, the guy who invented GoreTex (although we have Ralph, the guy who invented the bleacher couch, patent pending).

After that exhausting research, it was off to Kenny’s and the El Jefe Grande, which is Spanish for “Shave Two Years off Your Life.”

Ralph was the 45th person to attempt this mountain of food. Only one has been successful, a 6-foot-5 guy whose previous claim to eating fame was eating a whole 6-pound lasagna all by himself. In the past year, the El Jefe Grande defeated the 18th-ranked competitive eater in the world (yes, they rank gluttons; Apocalypse, you’ve got a call on line one).

Still, we were hopeful, until the manager brought out a waiver in which Ralph agreed he wouldn’t sue “for any misfortune, hospitalization, pain and suffering or accidental and/or premature death” that came from “eating THE BURGER.”

And then came the burger, served on a platter the size of a tennis racket. The girl at the next table looked over with some combination of love and terror in her eyes as Ralph cut off a slab the size of a toaster and began gnawing on it.

“That’s the best burger I’ve ever had,” Ralph said between mouthfuls.

Fifteen minutes later, Ralph had waved the white flag, more than half the burger still standing. It may have been a bad sign for Eastern fans. Hopefully, with the big game tomorrow we got all the failure out of our systems, because it’s going to take months for Ralph to get El Jefe out of his system.

Jess Walter’s latest book is “The Financial Lives of the Poets.” Ralph Walter is currently doubled over in pain.Follow their dispatches at

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