An epic game of tag

The "Tag Brothers" engage in a long-running game of tag, now in its 23rd year.
CBS News

(CBS News) "TAG . . . YOU'RE IT!" is right up there with "Trick Or Treat!" as a jubilant cry of childhood. And for at least one persistent band of friends, it's a cry that has persisted well into adulthood. Our Cover Story is reported by Lee Cowan:

In the Idaho panhandle, along the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene, the perfect approach on the golf course is followed by a not-so-perfect putt. But golf's warm good will, will be replaced by another game come winter -- and THAT spells trouble for this group of life-long friends.

Because all 10 of them have a mortal fear of February.

"Nothing can be trusted the last four or five days of February," said Bill Akers.

"I would let my dog out every morning, out the front door, and let him check out the front yard to make sure nobody was out there," said Chris Ammann.

Mark Mengert said, "It's hectic. Very hectic. It's, like, it starts immediately, and it's just a sprint 'til the end. You can't wait 'til the 28th!"

If it all sounds positively devilish, it is. Just ask their friend, a priest.

"You really are looking over your shoulder," said Father Sean Raftis.

What haunts them is very real, even if it makes them looks just plain creepy to outsiders -- looking under cars, sprinting through parking lots.

There's stalking, there's intrigue -- and a whole lot of paranoia.

But if you look closely . . . it's all very recognizable as a very elaborate, very adult game of tag.

"TAG! You're 'It'!

They call themselves the Tag Brothers, and every February -- for the last 23 years -- they spend lying in wait.

Joe Tombari (or Joey T., as he's known) even hid in the trunk of Patrick Schulteis' car, "coiled like a rattlesnake ready to fire out at him as soon as that trunk opens," he said.

Cowan joined Rick Bruya, who was hiding in a Seattle parking garage waiting to ambush his buddy Chris. "He's got to go by this area here to get to his car, so I think we should be in a prime location here," Mike said.

The wait was worth it: Chris was "tagged." "I figured it was my turn," he laughed.

The goal of the game is simple -- to get rid of the tag before the end of the month, or live with the shame of being "It" all year long.

No one knows the "it" feeling better than Konesky, who's currently "It" -- for the second year in a row.

"Yeah, thanks. Second year in a row. You don't have to keep rubbing it in!" he laughed.

He was tagged just hours before midnight on the very last day of February this year -- with no time to tag anyone back.

The Tag Brothers' friendship started some 30 years ago at their Catholic high school, Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash.

They were a pack, a group of friends who had everything, and yet nothing in common, says Brian Dennehy.

Chris Ammann, disguised as a vagrant, tagged Joey Caferro outside a bar (left). The next day, Joey - dressed as an old lady - surprised fellow Tag Brother Rick Bruya. CBS News

"We weren't jocks. We weren't the smart guys," he said.

"You weren't in a clique?" asked Cowan.

"Not really. We were probably the refugees from all the other cliques. They didn't accept us."

"So you found each other."

"Yeah, we made our own gang!"

During a free period between classes, they were encouraged to either study or go to mass.

Joe Tombari says they opted to play tag instead. "We would scatter like mice, this way, take off running that way," he said.