The idea for fowling came from neither a football game or a trip to the bowling alley, but from a tailgate at the Indianapolis 500. For Detroit native Chris Hutt and his friends the Indy 500 is an annual tradition, as is finding creative ways to entertain themselves around the race. In 2001, they built a full size bowling alley in their spot, but couldn’t find a way to stop the bowling balls at the end, so gave up. However, a nearby group was throwing a football around and a misplaced pass knocked over the bowling pins, and a eureka moment struck.
Setting up 10 pins at each end of the lane, two teams began to throw a football at the other’s pins and the sport was born, with most of the rules still used today made up on the spot. They called it fowling (pronounced foaling), a portmanteau of football and bowling, and the winners are the first team to knock over all of their opponents’ pins. You can throw the ball however you like but if you’re feeling confident, it’s famously harder than it looks, with strikes extremely rare.
The game continued to be played at Indianapolis, staying almost the same apart from the removal of the middle, unused portion of the alley, and attracting more and more participants. After the annual Superfowl Saturday was founded in 2004, Hutt decided to bring the game back to his hometown. Holding games at a series of warehouses, backyards and parks, as well as tailgates for the Detroit Lions, word of mouth continued to raise the game’s profile and Hutt knew he needed to find a permanent HQ.
Of course that was easier said than done, with a lot of space needed to launch a full fowling bar, however, Detroit has plenty of warehouses just waiting to be converted. In 2014, the 34,000-square-foot Fowling Warehouse opened in Hamtramck, with a full bar, beer garden, live music events and food trucks, alongside 30 fowling lanes. Open play is available, as are weekday leagues and lanes can be booked for larger groups and parties. So, if you’ve always known that you have a decent arm, but don’t get enough opportunities to show it off, here’s your chance.