Editor's note: An employee from Abner's says that the restaurant actually handed out free cheesesteaks later in the night. More information is available on this Twitter thread.
On Saturday night, Nov. 24, Penn men’s basketball scored over 100 points against Stockton University while Abner’s threw up an air ball, disappointing stunned and angry game fans with a broken promise of free cheesesteaks.
From the present day to when I was an undergraduate at Penn from 1991-1994, Abner’s had a promotion that when the Quakers scored 100 points, all fans in attendance were awarded free cheesesteaks after providing a ticket stub. Last December, Abner’s grudgingly honored this promotion when Penn defeated Delaware State 105-52. I say grudgingly because although the banner in the corner of the establishment, which was hanging this past Saturday, advertised the free cheesesteak for 100 points promotion, the manager of Abner’s spent most of the night last year yelling at patrons that free cheesesteaks were to be given with no sides (no mushrooms, no peppers, etc.) and glaring at everyone in the establishment there to collect on the deal. I remember this vividly along with the fact that the only person who beat my daughter and me to Abner’s last year after the game was former Gov. Ed Rendell, who must have travelled there by jetpack, as my daughter and I sprinted there from the Palestra.
This past Saturday was a different story. When my daughter and I arrived after the game with our ticket stubs in hand, the same manager as last year was angrily telling the hungry crowd that Abner’s was not honoring the promotion. Akin to the “no soup for you” Seinfeld episode, the manager repeatedly told customers they were not honoring the promotion, despite the huge promotional banner still hanging in the corner and touting the promotion. Puzzled alumni and students pointed to the banner but the manager was unmoved. Patrons suggested he call the owner of the establishment, but he declined.
My daughter still wanted a cheesesteak and cheese fries, so as loyal patrons of Abner’s, we bought both anyway. We left Abner’s with a stream of basketball fans filing into the place to collect on an empty promise. I tried to use the experience as a teaching moment for my daughter to explain that life is full of curveballs. I’m not sure the lesson stuck in the manner that the cheese adhered to each French fry in her hand.
What was once a proud Penn tradition died unceremoniously on Saturday. Considering the handful of times over the past 25 years Abner’s had to pay off on the deal, it seemed a tragic and unkind death. Here’s hoping Abner’s changes their stance in the event Penn ever scores 100 points again.
William Cooper graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1994. Comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.