A Lawyer, a Movie, and 30 Years of Tag
Their story was first picked up by The Wall Street Journal, and has been covered by CBS Sunday Morning and ESPN as well. Now, after nearly 30 years of tag, the story has been made into a movie, “Tag,” released in June. WSBA Editorial Advisory Committee Chair Renee McFarland asked Schultheis about the game, how it started, and how it piqued Hollywood’s attention. Here’s their full Q&A, a portion of which appears in the July issue of NWLawyer.
MCFARLAND: Can you share how the game of tag began? How many “Tag Brothers” are there?
SCHULTHEIS: There are 10 of us. It started in high school, when we started playing it during a break between classes—instead of going to mass (it was a Catholic high school).
MCFARLAND: How did it get started again after high school ended?
SCHULTHEIS: A group of us were sitting around drinking beers around Christmas 1989. We had all started our careers at that point, and were living all over the country. We thought that reviving the game would be a fun way to stay in touch.
MCFARLAND: As a new lawyer, you wrote a contract governing the game. What are the most important rules in the contract?
SCHULTHEIS: Three main rules: February only, no touch backs, and the rule of honesty (if another participant asks “are you it?” you must answer truthfully or promptly).
MCFARLAND: Have you had any disputes over the contract? Do alliances within the group complicate the game?
SCHULTHEIS: There is an ongoing disagreement over whether new methods of communication (primarily email and text messaging) are subject to the rule of honesty.
To wit, if somebody texts or emails a participant “Are you IT?” is the recipient of the text or email required to answer, and if so, how promptly? Most of us think that it is a question that is required to be answered, even if by text message or email, and answered promptly upon reading the question. However, a few guys disagree. Fortunately, the disagreement has not manifested itself in a dispute so far.
Alliances do not complicate the game per se. They just make it more treacherous.
MCFARLAND: What are some of the most memorable tags that have occurred?
SCHULTHEIS: There have been some amazing tags. I got tagged by Beef (Joe Caferro) at my dad’s (the late Judge John Schultheis) funeral in Spokane. It was a great, classic tag—my dad would have loved it. Mark Mengert once tagged Brian Dennehy at a Gonzaga U basketball game by wearing a mascot costume and tagging Brian at half court, just before half time.
MCFARLAND: To what lengths do Tag Brothers go to avoid being tagged?
SCHULTHEIS: Hiding, running (though less frequently, as we get older), going on vacation during February, and notifying workplace security not to let the other guys into the office during February. I once anticipated a tag on Feb. 27, as I was returning home to SeaTac from a business trip to Arizona. I evaded “The Bruiser” (Rick Bruya), who was “it” at the time and waiting to tag me at baggage claim, by having my secretary hire a Town Car driver to wait for me at baggage claim with a sign that said “Schultheis.” My car was parked at the airport, so I stayed inside security, went to another concourse and made it safely to my car. Meanwhile, “The Bruiser” was waiting in vain right by the driver.
MCFARLAND: Has the game had an effect on your practice?
SCHULTHEIS: Not really. Those of my clients who know about it think it is amusing, and are looking forward to the movie.
MCFARLAND: How did The Wall Street Journal learn of the game?
SCHULTHEIS: A friend of my stepson saw me playing the game when they were in high school, and it made an impression. Years later, he mentioned it to a friend of his who is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. The reporter thought it would make an interesting story, so the friend made an introduction. The story ran in late January 2013.
MCFARLAND: Your story is the subject of a movie for release in mid-June. Can you share how your story became a movie?
SCHULTHEIS: After The Wall Street Journal story, there was a media frenzy. Television and radio stations and journalists from around the world reached out for interviews. People from Hollywood—movies, television and reality television—also reached out wanting to produce movies and/or shows about us and the game. We were overwhelmed by the inquiries, so we hired an agent to manage the process. After shopping the story with our agent, we sold the rights to New Line Cinemas.
MCFARLAND: How involved have the Tag Brothers been in the movie process?
SCHULTHEIS: We spent a good deal of time sharing our stories with, and getting to know, the writer, producers, and director. We also spent a little time on the set of the movie as it was being made.
MCFARLAND: What does this game of tag mean to your group?
SCHULTHEIS: We have all been friends for more than 35 years—in some cases more than 40 years. However, since 1990 we have lived in different parts of the country, many have moved around a lot, and many have had multiple different jobs in very different fields. The game has given us a reason to, and a method by which, to stay in touch and to maintain strong friendships throughout the years.