Cheri Manus was less than enthused when her friends took her to a warehouse on Detroit’s east side to experience “fowling” for the first time. “They were like, ‘We’re going to throw a football at these boards and try to knock bowling pins down,’ ” Manus says. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Can we do something else tonight?’ ”
But Manus was immediately drawn in by the game’s unique twist on traditional bowling, and by the welcoming community she discovered that night.
Three years later, she usually goes fowling two nights per week. “I fell in love with it,” she says.
Manus is just one member of the growing fowling community that has spread to four different countries and more than half the states since Ferndale resident Chris Hutt and his friends invented the sport by accident in 2001.
Last weekend, we had the pleasure of dropping in on Chris Hutt, head honcho over at the Fowling Warehouse, a sprawling, 34,000-square-foot recreation space devoted to the sport of football bowling, or “fowling.”
Instead of bowling a heavy ball down a lane, fowlers throw a football at 10 pins, trying to knock as many down as they can. It involves aim, a strong throwing arm, and, usually, quite a lot of beer-drinking. The rules can get a little complicated from there, but we’ve spoken with a few people who’ve done it and they couldn’t get enough of it.
Tailgaters are noted for their ingenuity, but Ferndale resident Chris Hutt took it to a new level in 2001 when he and his buddies came up with the seemingly chucklehead idea of using a football to knock over bowling pins. They dubbed their new game “fowling.”
Now, more than a decade later, Hutt is convinced that fowling has a future, so much so that he recently unveiled the new 34,000-square-foot Fowling Warehouse in a Hamtramck industrial park. Complete with 20 lanes, a full bar, big-screen TVs and a small stage for bands, the Warehouse is a more legit version of the fowling facility he ran for two years in an old toy factory in Detroit.
A man in Michigan has invented a fusion of two American pastimes—and it’s catching on.
The rules of fowling, a hybrid of football and bowling, are simple: two teams set up bowling pins across from one another and take turns trying to knock each other’s pins down by throwing a football. The first team to knock down all of the opposing team’s pins wins.
If the rules sound pretty similar to beer pong, that’s because inventor Chris Hutt created the game while tailgating at the Indianapolis 500. Hutt now owns and operates the Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck, Mich. There, players get a special prize when they achieve a “bonk,” which means downing only the middle pin on the first throw: they can blow the “bonk honk” a giant horn in the middle of the warehouse.
Fowling combines football and bowling into a hybrid game. At the Fowling Warehouse near Detroit, players knock down pins by throwing, lobbing and even rolling a football down the lane. Photo: Fabrizio Costantini for The Wall Street Journal
“Born at Speedway, raised in Detroit.”
That is how fowling creator and owner of the Fowling Warehouse, Chris Hutt, a Bloomfield Township native, describes the upbringing of his beloved sport that, over time, became his livelihood. The sport of fowling, for those unaware, uses attributes of American football and bowling. The concept of the game is simple enough. It is usually played between two teams consisting of two players each, standing 32-feet apart. Participants are to throw a football at a standard set of bowling pins with the intention of knocking them all down. The first team to do so wins the game. While the concept sounds simple, and not particularly exciting, the popularity of the game has grown to house a dedicated warehouse spanning 35,000 square feet, 20 lanes, and thousands of visitors every week in a small enclave of Detroit called Hamtramck. That is where the sport of fowling currently stands, but you have to look back a little over 15 years to find how an errant football striking a set of bowling pins in the small town of Speedway, Indiana would spark an idea that would eventually consume Hutt’s life.
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