It’s that time of the year, when Valentine’s Day is around the corner and love is presumably in the air. The beginning of the annual pregame shuffle is also upon us. In an annual tradition for Greeks at the University, the time has come for the process of pairing up fraternities with sororities. The tradition involves fraternity men asking sorority women to join them at their tailgates in the fall, thus christening the term pregame partner. The formal invitation is extended in the form of a serenade by the fraternity men to the sorority of their choice. The sorority then votes on its suitors and formally accepts its fraternity of choice through another formal presentation — perhaps through another serenade or at another special event.

It’s like high school prom all over again, except this time with much bigger stakes. Sitting in lecture halls, I remember hearing chatter about who’s asking who and what fraternities are going to be paired with what sororities. It’s a fun process, and it definitely keeps the dull month of February interesting. Even if you think the process is a little archaic or silly, imagine fraternity men bantering about what song to serenade women with or what props to use. The time spent creating a plan of action with your brothers is definitely a unique experience.

Having participated in several serenades, I can say that the tradition is definitely one of my favorite memories in the chapter. The entire chapter spends weeks perfecting its craft in hopes of creating the best presentation to the sorority. Cookie cakes, flowers, decorations and props — nothing is off limits as the men seek to do whatever possible to impress the sorority of their choice. Never in the history of the world has a group of guys cared so much about what a group of women has thought of them.

The process has become such an important part of Greek Life culture that every year fraternity guys try to top past performances with more creative and outlandish ideas. I have to say my favorite story that I have heard thus far comes from a fraternity that serenaded the lucky ladies to “I’m On a Boat”, while they were in fact on a boat. Parking their vessel outside the sorority house, one can only imagine what the sorority house mother was thinking at that moment.

After all of the suitors have finished their wooing, the sorority women vote on which chapter to choose. I can only wonder what criteria sorority women use in their decision. There are usually more than two fraternities who have extended formal invitations to a specific sorority — after all, there are more than 30 IFC fraternities and 16 Panhellenic sororities. I have yet to be enlightened as to what actually goes into the sorority’s decision. I’m convinced that sororities discuss the topic for hours on end, only to come to a deadlock, finally breaking the tie by flipping a coin or picking the winning fraternity’s name out of a hat.

The funny thing is how much the pregame shuffle mirrors the dichotomy between men and women. Guys are almost always expected to make the first move. Yet when a girl shoots a guy down, it’s no big deal, right? There are other fish in the sea, and there are plenty of other girls to ask out. Yet, just like no girl wants to be the back up, no sorority wants to be a fraternity’s second choice. The fraternity that gets shot down often scrambles to find a back up, desperately trying to convince its new choice that they really wanted them all along and that their presentation to the first sorority was merely a ruse to confuse other suitors of their true intentions.

For those of you who are reading this wondering, “Why should I care about some tradition between fraternity men and sorority women?” perhaps the process is a little silly, and perhaps there are more important things to talk about, but for Greeks across the University, it’s the opportunity to meet new individuals and to be involved in a tradition that has spanned several decades. The thought of our parents and relatives discussing whether to serenade a sorority to “Brown-eyed Girl” or “My Girl” is a hilarious one, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the tradition.

Ryan Knapp can be reached at rjknapp@umich.edu.

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