A tailgating `emergency'

Bengals fans turn ambulance into a pre-game party-mobile

Setting the scene

Ravens Gameday

Bengals 13 Ravens 7

December 01, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Reporter

CINCINNATI -- Craig Smith, Bruce Smith, Billy Martin, Mike Giordano and Brandon Exeler are prepared for any emergency. Especially those of the culinary and beverage variety.

The five lifelong Cincinnati Bengals fans are the proud owners of a "Who Dey" ambulance, an orange-and-black-striped (unofficial) emergency vehicle that they drive to a parking lot about a quarter-mile southwest of Paul Brown Stadium.

Before last night's AFC North showdown between the Ravens and the Bengals, the five owners and about 15 more friends cooked up jambalaya and played a game that involved tossing beanbags through holes in platforms.

But the ambulance is the main attraction.

"When we're riding around in it, everybody's tooting their horns and yelling out, `Who Dey?' " said Bruce Smith, 54, referring to the team's post-game chant after victories.

The inspiration for using an ambulance as the ultimate tailgate machine was born from their occupations. All except Exeler are firefighters and emergency medical technicians in nearby Erlanger, Ky., and when they learned that a local fire department was trying to unload an ambulance, they jumped at an opportunity to buy the vehicle.

A friend did the bodywork and attached a beer tap to the rear door, and another painted graphics like the Bengals' logo and "Who Dey" written on the front.

Although the owners are secretive about the ambulance's price ("We paid less than $1,000 and more than $100," Craig Smith, 30, said cryptically), one of the primary reasons for buying the ambulance was its durability.

The odometer doesn't go past 99,999, but Giordano noted that emergency vehicles are usually well-serviced to ensure that they don't break down at a crucial moment.

The other attraction was the ambulance's capacity to carry a grill, coolers, tents, pots, pans and cooking utensils. That means more time for what these fans really want to do.

"We pull up, open the beers, and start drinking," said Giordano, 43. "That's what we do."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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