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Friends play tag for 23 years
Friends play 'tag' for 23 years

Checking beneath your car every day, leaving the windows locked, and posting a guard outside your office.

It's the sort of caution you might expect from a mob boss or politician – but it's also the reality for 10 men who have been playing a game of tag for the past 23 years.

The men, all originally from Spokane, Washington, haven't let growing up and becoming adults stop them from playing the schoolyard game.

The rules are the same now as they were then; a player is 'it', until he is able to tag another player – but the stakes have changed.

For one month each year these men fly around the United States, hide in bushes, and break into homes, all in the hope of avoiding being 'it' for the next 11 months.

"You're like a deer or elk in hunting season," school teacher Joe Tombari told The Wall Street Journal.

Having failed to tag anyone else in the long-running schoolyard game, Mr Tombari was 'it' on the final day of high school in 1982.

Eight years later when the friends got together again, it was decided that the game didn't need to end at graduation. The hunt was on again.

One of the friends, by then a rookie lawyer, drew up the rules, including the standard 'no tag backs' (no tagging the player who just tagged you) and it was decided the game would be on for the entire month of February each year.

Since then the men have gone to elaborate lengths to ensure they're not 'it' come midnight on February 28th.

In the mid-1990s Mr Tombari and his wife opened the boot of a friend's car, only to find another friend, Sean Raftis, inside.

Mr Tombari was now 'it', and to add injury to insult, his wife fell backwards, damaging ligaments her knee.

"I still feel bad about it," says Father Raftis, now a priest living in Montana.

Over the years the friends have broken in to homes at 2am and spent hours crouched in bushes hoping to surprise a friend.

One February, a participant refused to help a colleague change a flat tire for fear it was part of an elaborate ruse to get him.

Another man enlists his office manager to guard him at work. Now every February, 'no one gets in to see him'.

Mike Konesky was stuck with dreaded 'it' tag last year, and now has just two days before his chance to unload it onto one of his school buddies.

He says he likes the idea of finding someone like the wily Father Raftis who hasn't been 'it' for quite some time since moving Montana.

But as Mr Konesky points out, Father Raftis is a sitting duck every Sunday.