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No end in sight for 23-year game of tag

Jan 30, 2013, 3:42 PM EDT


How do you end a game of tag? You can’t. Someone will always be “IT” and that’s just the facts. No official end of a game of tag has ever been recorded, and that’s what makes it so special. Also we love the simplicity.

Some friends who have found themselves far flung from each other keep in touch through email, or a group chat, or fantasy football. But a certain seven old friends from Spokane, WA, have decided to stay friends forever by constructing an insanely intricate game of tag catered to their new lives as full fledged “adults”.

The friends used to play tag during a free period, a tradition they had until the last day of high school when one of the guys, Joe Tombari, realized he was going to be “IT” for eternity unless he did something about it, and quickly. Too bad everybody caught wind of this fact and Tombari couldn’t make any tags. “IT” for life. Until they came up with the wacky tag they play now.

Here are their rules:

1) The game was only active during February.
2) The player who was “It” at the end of February was “It” for the rest of the year.
3) No tagbacks. (Crucial, obviously.)
4) The game has no geographical boundaries.

So during the month of February, the “It” player flies around the country trying to tag someone – breaking into houses, hiding in bushes, devising elaborate plots of deception – while the other players collect spies and lock themselves away in hiding. And, as you can imagine, it has led to quite the handful of amazing tag stories.

The Wall Street Journal has quotes from the hijinks that ensued.

“One February day in the mid-1990s, Mr. Tombari and his wife, then living in California, got a knock on the door from a friend. ‘Hey, Joe, you’ve got to check this out. You wouldn’t believe what I just bought,’ he said, as he led the two out to his car.

What they didn’t know was Sean Raftis, who was “It,” had flown in from Seattle and was folded in the trunk of the Honda Accord. When the trunk was opened he leapt out and tagged Mr. Tombari, whose wife was so startled she fell backward off the curb and tore a ligament in her knee.

‘I still feel bad about it,’ says Father Raftis, who is now a priest in Montana. ‘But I got Joe.’”

I do love the image of a priest leaping out of a trunk for an archaic game of tag with enough veracity to tear someone’s ligament from the fright.

Patrick Schultheis, apparently one of the richer of the friends, has taken the outlook of extreme paranoia when it regards to his friends in the month of February.

“Mr. Schultheis once refused to help a colleague change his tire, fearing the guy had been recruited to help get him tagged. He sometimes goes to Hawaii in February, partly to lessen the chances of getting tagged.

Every February, Mr. Schultheis’s office manager provides security detail as well as administrative functions.

Mr. Tombari once tried to talk his way past her. ‘She knew it was tag time,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t allowed in. Nobody got in to see him.’

Felonies are allowed too, apparently. Mike Konesky once broke into the house of Brian Dennehy, ran into the bedroom and got to tagging his prey. Remember guys, this is very similar to how Sean Taylor died.

“One year early on when Mike Konesky was ‘It’ he got confirmation, after midnight, that people were home at the house where two other players lived. He pulled up to their place at around 2 a.m., sneaked into the garage and groped around in the dark for the house door. ‘It was open,’ he says. ‘I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I could get arrested.”

Mr. Konesky tiptoed toward Mr. Dennehy’s bedroom, burst through the door and flipped on the light. A bleary-eyed Mr. Dennehy looked up as his now-wife yelled ‘Run, Brian!’ Mr. Konesky recalls. ‘There was nowhere for Brian to run.’”

Nothing more fun than the thrill of a manhunt.