Retired chief trades in stripes for whistle
John Darcey, lead official for intramural sports, stands ready to officiate no matter what the sport April 11, 2012, at the Dover Air Force Base, Del., Fitness Center. Darcey, a retired chief master sergeant, has been officiating football, basketball, volleyball and umpiring softball at Dover AFB since 1992. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker)
by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/24/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- It is the bottom of the seventh inning, there are two outs with runners on second and third. A hit is slapped into shallow left field, the ball comes into home, the runner slides - what is the call?
There are 10 seconds left and the team is down one point. A player drives the lane and there is contact as the player puts up the shot - what is the call?
Both of these situations have one thing in common: a referee or umpire will be required to make a decision, a decision that could decide the fate of the game.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. John Darcey is no stranger to these situations. The former 436th Security Forces superintendent has been making decisions like these for more than 39 years, 20 of which have been spent here. Now, Darcey enforces law and order on the court and on the playing surface instead of on base.
During his 30-year career in the Air Force, Darcey, a Baltimore, Md., native and former athlete has spent all of that time, plus his retirement, around the two things he loves dearly - sports and Airmen - by officiating and umpiring football, basketball, volleyball and softball. He began officiating in 1992 and said he does it because it keeps him involved with the base and the Airmen and it helps keep him young.
"I think sports ties in with military life," said Darcey. "They promote teamwork, hard work and discipline, and they are good for morale. I would like to see more commanders, chiefs, first sergeants and squadron members come out and support their teams."
With so much time spent officiating games, there is hardly anything that Darcey has not seen happen in competition. In fact, some of the games still bring back memories, even though they happened years ago.
"There have been a lot of exciting games here, especially during the playoffs when the intensity of the competition rises," Darcey said. "I remember one basketball game I covered, when the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron was down one point with one second left. They tossed the ball in bounds, and 436th CES hit a buzzer-beater to win. It's like I always say, the game is not over until the horn goes off, there are three outs, or that final whistle blows."
Someone who can attest to Darcey's importance and commitment to Dover AFB's athletics is Staff Sgt. Denten Peasley, director of the intramural sports program.
"He's the Regis Philbin of Dover Air Force Base," Peasley said. "I think he could do it forever. He's the only one of our officials who officiates all sports. He makes things easy for me because I can always count on him. He not only officiates, but he runs the basketball and volleyball programs for me. That allows me to concentrate on other things because I know he'll get the job done right."
Peasely said that Darcey is a popular official with the coaches and players because he is enthusiastic about the calls and makes things exciting. He said Darcey is also never shy to tell one what he thinks of their criticism of his calls.
"I was at a game sitting on the sidelines, and he made what I thought was a bad travelling call," Peasley said. "He told me, 'well if you pulled out the rule book you would know that was travelling.' His famous quote is `I've been doing this here for 20 years and I've never missed a call.'"
At 65-years old, Darcey said he wants to continue officiating for as long as he can. He reiterated it would be the Airmen he would miss the most once he hung up his whistle for good.
"This is what I love," Darcey said. "I don't ever want to quit. I'd miss being with the Airmen. That's how I made my money in the service. I took care of my Airmen. I would miss being around them and supporting them. I hope I never have to quit."