“Who Dey?” is something you’re going to hear often as the Cincinnati Bengals head to Super Bowl 56, but where did it come from? The phrase dates back to the old Riverfront Stadium days and is derived from a historic Cincinnati business.
Hudepohl Beer Company has been a staple in the Cincinnati beer industry since 1885, long before the Bengals were even a thought for the city. Hudepohl has been around Cincinnati even before the Reds were in town, which is sort of crazy to think about, as the Reds are the first organized professional baseball team to ever exist.
As a historic brewer, it comes as no surprise that fans have spent hundreds of years enjoying their products as they cheer on their hometown football team. As the franchise got up and running, Hudepohl was sold in the stadium by beer vendors during games. If you’ve been to any professional sporting event, you know the beer vendors can bring the noise. They would be heard shouting, “Hudy,” while advertising the beer and hear the occasional “HuDey” as well.
As time went on, that started to catch on. In the 1981 season, the Bengals won their first playoff game in franchise history, making their way to their first ever Super Bowl. The “HueDey” chant quickly evolved and became ingrained in the team and the city of Cincinnati.
For the 1988 Super Bowl run, Hudepohl embraced the connection and put out commemorative cans including the full season schedule on the back. Those have grown to be prized possessions in memorabilia collections for fans. I’m lucky enough to have six of them myself:
The transformation was complete. Now, you hear the chant nearly every day:
“Who Dey?! Who Dey?! Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals? Noooooobody!” plays loudly throughout Paul Brown Stadium before games and after touchdowns. Shirts, hats and jackets all around don the phrase.
In fact, it has sort of become a greeting for fans who may not know each other. A trip to a grocery store on a game day in the area is usually a great example. As fans gather the goods for their game day spreads, it seems almost mandatory to give a “Who Dey?” to fellow shoppers wearing orange and black.
There is also a friendly connection to the New Orleans Saints fanbase. In New Orleans, fans chant “Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat gonna beat ‘dem Saints.” Much has been made of the similar chants and depending on which fan you ask first, one stole the chant from the other. If you want to get technical, “Who Dey” started to echo through Riverfront Stadium in 1981 and although “Who Dat” was an old saying in the New Orleans area, the Saints fanbase didn’t adopt it until the 1983 season. All us Bengal fans take pride in knowing we had ours first, despite what recently departed Saints coach Sean Payton may think.
Here we are, four decades later and those two words are synonymous with the same feelings brought to Cincinnati when it started. An improbable Super Bowl run, an energized fan base and a legendary Cincinnati brewer that has been around for hundreds of years.
As the Bengals went into the ever intimidating Arrowhead Stadium and overcame an 18-point deficit against the Kansas City Chiefs, the deafening crowd wasn’t quite as intimidating as some had expected. Bengals fans showed up in droves, being as loud as they possibly could to root their team on.
The chants you heard on your television as they received the Lamar Hunt Trophy? “Who Dey?!” of course.