Back in 2013, the Wall Street Journal published what is arguably its single crowning journalistic achievement over the past century—an article about the game of tag. The front-page story spelled out the saga of ten middle-aged men locked in a decades-long game of playground tag, one that started in the early 1980s when the gang was in high school in Washington state and never seemed to end.
The rules for the epic game—first spelled out in a 1990 "Tag Participation Agreement" drawn up by a lawyer in the group—are basically the same as they were on the schoolyard, with one major exception: The game is only on for a month a year, in February, and the last person tagged by the time March rolls around has to stay "it" for an entire year.
The WSJ article is a heartwarming tale of adult companionship, dumb games, and anecdotes like this:
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."
The game is still going, five years after the article, but things are about to reach a whole new level. Apparently someone found the epic story of 30-year tag game so alluring that they decided to turn it into a movie—and now that movie, starring Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, and the guy who played Jason Bourne that one time, is heading to theaters. What is the name of this movie, you ask? Yes, you guessed it: Tag.
The film's first trailer, which dropped Tuesday, teases a few key moments from the WSJ article, namely the time someone tagged a guy at his father's funeral but fictionalizes the rest to give the thing a narrative spine about the friends trying to finally tag Jeremy Renner, who has never been "it." The movie is due out June 15.
Does the world need a film adaptation based on a newspaper article about a playground game? No. But the idea of watching Ed Helms and Jon Hamm chase each other across America in an on-going game of tag seems oddly compelling. Plus, the whole thing is ultimately just a treatise on how difficult it is to maintain adult male friendships past your 20s. Maybe we should all start playing tag.
For the record, Mike Konesky of Spokane is currently "it." Good luck next February, Mike. Until then, enjoy the fact that your commitment to a ridiculous schoolyard game has inspired a major motion picture.
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