Cincinnati Bengals: The origins of Who Dey

Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

WHO DEY, WHO DEY, WHO DEY THINK GONNA BEAT THEM BENGALS? Well, Bengaldom says NOBODY! The rest of the NFL, at least for the last few years would beg to differ.

However, that isn’t our focus here. Our focus is a bit different. Where did our iconic chant come from? Who started it? These questions may have no real, concrete answers, but I will dive deep and attempt to answer the origin of the chant the nation will be repeating in less than a week.

This Super Bowl run has been nothing short of magical. Bengal fans far and wide have been happy to remind anyone that would listen that our Bengals are in the big game. And why wouldn’t we? It’s been a long, painful journey back from the pit of misery (dilly dilly) to the biggest stage in all of sports.

Fans of a certain age (I was barely a pup last time the stripes were in the Super Bowl) remember the excitement that comes with a championship berth. We remember the promise. We remember the disappointment.

Yet here we are, all these years later saying WHO DEY! Well, when it comes to the question of Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals, I say NOBODY, but let’s look at the origins of this iconic chant and see if we can strip back some of the mythology and find out where it came from.

Origins of “Who Dey” Cincinnati Bengals chant

In 1981-82, the Bengals changed their uniforms to the stripes we know now, and with a relatively unknown coach in Forrest Gregg proceeded to win the AFC with stifling defense and the first real West Coast offense. Unfortunately we all know what happened against the 49ers in sunny Detroit (just kidding, what a terrible place for a January Super Bowl).

While the Bengals lost, a phenomenon was born. An underdog team, led by an aging quarterback, a first time coach, and a defense of no names took the league by storm. Issac Curtis, Ken Anderson, Charles Alexander, Pete Johnson, Ross Browner, Ken Riley, not household names, but a couple of players deserving of Hall of Fame spots to be sure.

If you sat in the cheap seats of the old Riverfront Stadium, you no doubt remember the beverage choices. This wasn’t limited to just Bengal games, but Reds games also. If you sat in the upper bowl of Riverfront, your beer choices were pretty much Hudepohl or nothing. No knock against Hudepohl, as it is a Cincinnati beer, but that is what you got at Riverfront.

Stay with me kids, but does Hudy sound a bit like Who Dey? Of course it does. Never a company NOT to seize on an opportunity, Hudepohl marketed Hu Dey beer during the magical 1981-82 season.

I still have an unopened six-pack I vowed to my kids I would drink if we ever won the Super Bowl. Okay, I didn’t think I would ever have to worry about that, but here we are! Not saying I wont drink them, but definitely after 40 years not saying I will!

The New Orleans Saints stake a hard claim to the chant with their Who Dat nonsense, and even though they may or may not have a legit claim, as a fan of a certain age I can tell you definitively that our “Who Dey” chant became a part of the national lexicon long before their pitiful “Who Dat” knockoff.

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Since this is just a fun article celebrating what is arguably the most exciting time of our collective sports lives, let’s just sit back, crack a cold Hu Dey beer, (it’s really not that bad), and collectively will our Bengals on to a Super Bowl win!