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kottke.org posts about tag

A game of tag that’s been going for 20+ years

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2018

A group of high school friends has been playing an elaborate game of tag since reconnecting at a reunion almost 30 years ago. A few years ago, one of the players wrote a piece for The Guardian about the game.

Since we had busy lives and lived hundreds of miles apart, we agreed on three rules. First, we would play it only in February each year; second, you were not allowed immediately to tag back the person who had tagged you; and finally, you had to declare to the group that you were “it”.

Now we are grown men, we don’t run like Usain Bolt, so subterfuge and collusion have become our weapons. Eleven months of the year are spent planning. Collaborating with a friend is where the fun is — we can spend hours discussing approaches.

I was tagged spectacularly a few years back when a friend popped round to show me his new car. As I approached it, Sean sprang out of the boot where he’d been hiding and tagged me. He’d flown 800 miles from Seattle to San Francisco just to stop being “it” — to shrug off the “mantle of shame”, as we call it. My wife was so startled she fell and injured her knee, but she wasn’t angry; she was pleased to see Sean.

Hollywood, who knows a winning idea when they see one,1 has now based a movie on the game. Tag stars Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, and Rashida Jones; here’s the trailer:

And if you think some of the tagging scenarios in the movie are too good to be true (a funeral, really?)…yeah, no:

Some things we did early on we wouldn’t do now — like when Mike sneaked into Brian’s house at night, crept into the bedroom and woke him up to tag him, surprising the life out of him and his girlfriend.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected tags was during Mike’s father’s funeral. During the service, he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Joe mouthing, “You’re it.” Afterwards, he said his father would have approved, because he found our game hilarious.

A decades-long game of adult tag is exactly the type of thing I love reading about but would never participate in. I am a huge stick-in-the-mud, but I’ve made my peace with it.

  1. This clearly isn’t true, but roll with me here.