A new sport that combines football and bowling is taking Michigan by storm. Fowling is the brainchild of entrepreneur Chris Hutt who’s so confident the hybrid sport is going to be huge that he has converted a 34,000-square-foot industrial site into what he calls the Fowling Warehouse.
Hutt said that he invented the game years ago along with a few buddies, while tailgating at the Indianapolis 500. It started off as an accident, when a couple of guys were playing catch with a football and someone made a bad pass. The ball rolled and knocked over a few bowling pins that were lying around. Inspiration struck right at that magical moment, and fowling (pronounced foal-ing) was born. Hutt and his friends quickly set up a few spare pins at the end of the lane and knocked them out with the football all day, making up the rules as they went along. And by the end of the day, they had the entire sport fleshed out.
They continued fowling at the speedway for a few years, during which time they improved on the game even more. The narrow lane became a bit of a nuisance, so they expanded the game to 40 pins, with two platforms. “After a full day of fowling, we decided we’ve got to have a tournament,” Hutt said. “Everybody signed up, 24 teams with goofy names for the inaugural Superfowl Saturday.”
This year marked the 11th anniversary of Superfowl Saturday – in the past decade, Hutt brought the sport back with him to Detroit and also set it up in various other places. The Indianapolis Superfowl is still a major event, but Detroit hosts a tournament on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s called ‘Turkey Fowl’.
The Fowling Warehouse facility in Hamtramck features 20 lanes, where players or teams try to knock out all 10 of their opponent’s bowling pins by tossing a single football from about 48 ft away. There’s two ways to end a fowling match – either knock out all of the opponent’s pins, or play a shot called ‘Bonk’. That’s when a player knocks out only the middle pin on the first throw, with the remaining nine intact.
Hutt says that the sport isn’t easy, but it isn’t complicated either. He revealed that about 60 Bonks are played a month – players who manage the complicated shot can ‘honk your Bonk’. That is, sound a Great Lakes freighter horn at the bar. According to Hutt, the sonic blast “lets everyone know that you’re the coolest person in the room.”
The team that eventually wins the Turkey Fowl is awarded the Kraut Cup – literally a cup of sauerkraut! The story goes that when two guys won the very first match, they asked, “Where’s our trophy?” Hutt says that he ran into the bar bus to find something to use as a trophy, and the only thing he managed to find was an old can of sauerkraut. So the tradition continued.
The Warehouse also features a 175-seater beer garden and a stage for live music, which draws large crowds on weekend nights. A special deal allows visitors unlimited fowling for $10 until closing, at 2am. Guests can also reserve lanes two hours at a time for group play, with up to 10 players per lane.
27-year-old Grace, a visitor from Detroit, said: “It’s just a great place to hang out. It’s the best of both worlds. You’re bowling and you’re playing football at the same time.”
Hutt plans to expand his fowling empire in the coming years. “This will work in any major city,” he said. “We really want to target the college towns.”
Photos: Fowling Warehouse/Facebook