|What is Cork Bowl?
Cork Bowl is a 5-on-5 tackle football game played annually at "Corklestick
Park" in the yard of the Cork family in Robinson, Illinois. It is usually played around
Thanksgiving time, however games have been played as early as November
10th and as late as December 15th in the past. Nearly all players in
Cork Bowl have no real football experience. With a couple of
exceptions, nearly all players participated in sports other than football
in high school (most players were cross country and track runners in their
primes). Only 3 of the 27 players to ever play in a Cork Bowl played
high school football. Also, most players in the history of the game
have been under the unofficial weight limit of 180 pounds. In fact,
the average height and weight of a Cork Bowl player is approximately
5'9" - 155 pounds. Cork Bowl gives us "little people"
the opportunity to play tackle football against players our own size, and
gives those of us with minimal athletic achievement a chance to play a
sport we all love. The game itself is
only part of what makes Cork Bowl what it is. So much time goes into
building the game up, that the game itself is only a portion of why those
of us involved love it so much. In fact, a good description of the game is
given by long time player Willy Truitt: "Cork Bowl is 25%
looking good, 25% the pregame show, 25% trash-talking on the webpage, and
25% the game itself."
The Evolution of the Game - The first ever recorded action of a Cork Bowl came with Cork Bowl 2 in 1992. Approximately 30 minutes of the game was caught on videotape. Since 1995, a pregame show has been filmed the night prior to the game, and the game is then filmed in its entirety complete with a play-by-play announcer. A number of pregame shows have lasted as long as 45 minutes to one hour. Teams are usually decided on at least a month prior to the game. Many players make their own uniforms for the game, and team names must come from obscure animals (ex. Ermine, Bushdogs, Meerkats, Hartebeests, etc.). Jerseys can be realistic with numbers and names as those of Patrick Cork and Willy Truitt usually are, or can be used to bemoan the opponent as Josh Williamson has been known to do in past years going so far as to list the opponents as "Endangered Species" on his jersey. Each team usually eclipses 100 points in the game with the highest scoring game being 168-147 (7 points awarded for each touchdown). Following the game, the trophy is awarded to the winning team and the championship rings are handed out (plastic rings bought at a local convenience store each year). Then the tape of the battle is watched, and statistics are tabulated. The extensive webpage you are currently viewing was first posted following Cork Bowl 8 in November of 1998. Beginning with Cork Bowl 10, comments from players (trash-talk) began to be posted on the site, and there are normally new remarks from the competitors at least three or four times per week as the game approaches. Following each year's game, the story, stats, and recap of the game are posted onto the webpage and then the players wait 12 months to play again.
How did it start? The game was created in the fall of 1991 when the first official Cork Bowl was played. Chris and Patrick Cork (ages 16 and 13 at the time) gathered a group of their friends for a 5-on-5 tackle football game in their backyard. Thus began Cork Bowl.
What is the field like? The field is known as Corklestick Park and is 37 yards long and 34 yards wide. The endzones at each end of the field are 7 yards deep. The field is painted before each game with spray paint complete with sidelines, endzones, and first down lines. Willy Truitt usually paints a design at midfield each year as well. The field is located north of Route 33 northwest of Robinson, Illinois. It is 1 1/2 miles north of the WTYE radio station.
What are the rules of Cork Bowl? Each team is made up of 5 players. The game consists of four grueling 25-minute quarters with a running clock. (The clock does stop in the last minute of each half for dead balls - incomplete passes, touchdowns, etc.) There are no substitutions, so there is no time to rest up during the game except for halftime. There are no kickoffs, so to start the game (and after any scores), the offensive team begins with the ball at their own 3 yard line. They have 4 downs to get a first down, which is a distance of 18 yards. If a first down is gained, the team then has 4 more downs to score a touchdown with the endzone being 15 yards past the original first down marker. A team may punt on fourth down if they wish, although punts are very rare in Cork Bowl and the receiving team cannot advance the punt - they gain possession of the ball where it is received. To begin a play, the ball must be snapped from a center who is eligible to catch passes allowing for 4 receivers to be downfield each play. There are no running plays in Cork Bowl with one exception. If the quarterback is blitzed by the defense, once the defender crosses the line of scrimmage, the quarterback may run with the ball. A team may only blitz one player on each play. Other than that exception, every play in Cork Bowl is a pass. It is common for each team to throw the ball between 65 and 75 times in a game. A touchdown is worth 7 points, and there are no extra points or two-point conversions. The only other way to score in Cork Bowl is to get a safety while on defense which is worth 2 points. All pass receiving rules are the same as the NFL. A receiver must have two feet down in bounds and he is not down until touched down by contact. Penalties are very rare as well as the teams monitor calls by themselves, and the announcer can use his judgment as well if there are any questions. The average Cork Bowl usually does not have a penalty called in the entire 100 minutes of play. Each team receives 3 timeouts per half.
If the game is so great, why only play once a year? The legacy of Cork Bowl is built on the foundation of having one champion. Several years, a rematch game was played a few weeks following Cork Bowl, but it was never as intense or as fun as the original, so the idea of playing more than once a year has been thrown out. Also, it takes most players about a month to heal up from the game, and the idea of playing a rematch game usually isn't discussed. In fact, each year a number of players proclaim that it is the last time they will ever play because of the punishment their bodies take, but they always come back. Also, since the webpage was created, it has allowed players to talk trash with each other as soon as the teams are named, beginning as early as September. That allows for trash-talking in the fall, leaves the rest of the winter to heal, and in the summer Corklestick Park is reserved for Chair Baseball (see chair baseball section).
Do people actually come to watch the game? Actually, the average attendance at Cork Bowl is 4. The highest attendance ever recorded was for Cork Bowl 9 when the temperature reached a balmy 75 degrees. That year we had 8 fans on hand, not including the announcer and cameraman. Some of the most loyal fans have braved the conditions over the years to take in the game. Akeya Harper is first all-time in Cork Bowl appearances having attended Cork Bowls 9, 10, and 11 and made the journey all the way from Chicago for Cork Bowl 11.
Can I buy Cork Bowl merchandise? Although nothing is available for the general public at this time, t-shirts were made for the participants and a handful of fans for Cork Bowl 12. We are considering getting Cork Bowl shirts printed up sometime in the near future for sale to anyone that wants a piece of history.
Can I purchase a copy of the games? Absolutely. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of a past Cork Bowl, please e-mail Commissioner Cork at: [email protected] for details. Please specify which game you would like and he will reply with approximate cost of production including shipping and handling. Cork Bowl 2 and 4 contain only partial footage, however Cork Bowls 5-11 are available in their entirety.
Will Cork Bowl ever make it "big time"? In the summer of 2002, the Robinson Daily News ran a front-page feature story on Cork Bowl. It was the first time the game was officially revealed to the general public in Robinson. Sports Editor Tim Brooks wrote the story, and those around Cork Bowl are very appreciative for him taking the time to write about our game. Initial contacts were attempted with a number of national sports agencies about the possibility of a story on Cork Bowl, but nothing ever came of them. The front offices are still working diligently to get some sort of coverage in the future. The Cork Bowl website can be accessed through nearly all internet search engines.