The GMAN Challenge: The Greek Response to 55 Days of Cafe
When State College begins to thaw, every Penn State student wants to be at Cafe. Underagers walk past with envy and those drinking on the porch can’t see straight but definitely don’t want to be anywhere else. The tweets start rolling out, the skillet fries keep coming, and no one gets sick of teas. 55 days is a Penn State tradition that many recent alumni love to look back on with a hint of romanticism.
But what about the other bar challenges?
The lesser-known GMAN challenge is fairly new, but definitely a much bigger, costlier commitment.
What is the GMAN challenge? GMAN. Everyday. Monday of fall syllabus week to Friday before spring semester finals. Yep. That’s right. Every. Single. Day.
There’s no plaque at the end, but there is a banner with your name on it under your fraternities letters. You and your bros, living on in GMAN infamy forever.
Kevin Doherty, class of 2013 and a former member of Kappa Delta Rho, completed the challenge last year. He gave me a little more perspective on what it is to basically live at GMAN.
“The challenge started as a complete joke mocking all the people who bragged about how hard the Cafe Challenge was. The three godfathers of the challenge, who are a year older than me and also in KDR, jokingly said how they come to the GMAN everyday anyway, so how hard is 55 days in a row? So from that spawned the challenge,” said Doherty.
Frat guys trying to show up geeds? Sounds about right.
The guys had to show up at GMAN at least once and day and buy at least one alcoholic beverage. It didn’t matter what kind or how much it cost, they just needed alcohol. This included weekends and weekdays, but excluded holidays like Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, and spring break.
It’s still pretty intense, but holiday exemptions definitely make sense. Then things got more complicated.
“More rules began to arise as things came up,” said Doherty. “For example, if you were going away for the weekend, you had to buy at least one drink per day that you’d be missing from the G-Man take-out cooler. This also was the same for canning weekends. If you were gone for two days you would need to purchase two beers from take-out and take them with you.”
Beers to go, FTK! To their credit, I wouldn’t have thought of that. A good compromise for not being in State College, I suppose.
While being at GMAN every single day seems totally crazy and, well, challenging, the bigger question is, how freaking expensive was that? Was it worth the name on a banner? Doherty seemed to think so.
“Knowing all the bartenders helped because they would spot us out in the swarms of people waiting on a drink when they were busy, and we were able to cut the line at certain times, which paid HUGE dividends on those popular weekends and once our grade turned 21 and flocked to the bars,” he said. “Also, the bartenders were lenient at times about cutting down on those especially large bills and helping us out.”
Plus, they never had to pay cover. In addition to showing up everyday, they had to log their check-ins.
“The GMAN kept track of the challenge by having us purchase a “sign-in” book which was kept behind the bar at all times, which is still behind the bar today,” said Doherty. “It started by writing our names but quickly evolved into recounting different nights, making fun of each other, and writing any thing else that came to mind.”
You can imagine how this went. At the end of the year, they photocopied the book and made it into a PDF file so everyone could look back on the memories they couldn’t remember.
“It’s EXTREMELY hard to read,” he said. “Flipping through the pages promises a tidal wave of nostalgia, it’s fucking awful. But if you’re in the right mood/state of mind it’s down right hilarious to read through and ignite memories that I thought had since exited my brain. I’m happy I have it to reference a simpler time in my life.”
Imagine if you had a diary of every ridiculous thing you did everyday of your senior year of college? Although you don’t need to spend your money at GMAN to write a diary, I can’t even imagine what kind of secrets a frat bro diary must contain.
Going to Cafe for 55 days in a row probably has its own memories and its own benefits, but the GMAN crew is definitely develops a nuclear, air-tight friendship.
“The G-man really became a second home for all of us; we became close with all of the employees and knew the specials up and down,” Doherty said, with a tear in his eye (not really). “We went there for trivia, weekend nights, half-priced appetizers, we took our formal dates out here — please don’t judge, because I’m they sure did — brought our parents there, and just about anything else in between. Soon we’d look for any excuse we could find to go there and hang out. The G-Man became a symbol of our friendship. It truly became a place for us to unwind when the day was over and forget about school for awhile.”
To top it all off, the team spent the last Tuesday during senior week at GMAN from open until close. According to Doherty, it was emotional, including tears being shed during last call.
“It was one of the best days of my life and in no way is that depressing.”