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Being mayor of new haven, Connecticut's third-largest city, is a full-time position, but that doesn't keep John Daniels from doing a bit of moonlighting in the fall. On autumn weekends the Democratic mayor trades in his political pinstripes for the zebra stripes of a football referee.
On Friday, Sept. 27, Daniels, 55, caught a 5 p.m. flight to Philadelphia and then took a cab to the Hershey Hotel, where he met the rest of the officiating crew for Saturday's game between Temple and Howard. Daniels was the field judge, responsible for keeping track of the 25-second clock and watching all downfield plays. He got most of his action during passes, kickoffs and punt returns.
The game between the Owls and the Bison at Veterans Stadium was a blowout—Temple romped 40-0—and a quiet afternoon for the mayor. Officials are barely noticeable when they do a good job, and Daniels was almost invisible that afternoon.
When the game was over, he sat bare-chested on a chair in the locker room, eating a sandwich before jumping into the shower. He is 5'9" and a solid 176 pounds, only a pound or two over his playing weight back in his days as a halfback at Villanova.
"I really enjoy doing this," the youthful-looking Daniels said. "It helps me get rid of some of the stress that comes with my other job." He dressed quickly and rushed off to the airport. By nine that evening he was back in New Haven.
Daniels has been a referee for more than 20 years. A native of New Haven, he was an all-state halfback at James Hill-house High School and attended Villanova on a football scholarship. (He later earned a master's in urban planning from Occidental College, in California.) In 1961 he began teaching history at West Haven High, where he was also an assistant football coach.
After he left West Haven in 1967 to become director of New Haven's Commission on Equality, he started refereeing local high school football games. In 1970 Daniels moved up to college jayvee and freshman games. Soon he was working a full slate of varsity games, mostly in the Ivy League and the Yankee Conference. In 1984 he began working for the major independents, and this year he has added a few Big East games. Daniels has also handled several postseason affairs, including the Citrus, Sugar and Hall of Fame bowls.
Art Hyland, who supervises officials for the Big East, says, "John is eminently successful at what he does on the football field. He is very dedicated and very good."
Daniels has been in politics almost as long as he has been in football. In 1964 he was elected to the New Haven Board of Aldermen, on which he served for 14 years, and in 1980 he was elected to the first of five terms as a state senator. He was in the middle of his fifth senate term when he made his successful mayoral bid in 1989.
Combining his weekend whistle-blowing with his regular mayoral duties hasn't always been easy. Daniels refereed during the regular season while he ran his first mayoral campaign two years ago, but the bowl games were out of the question that season because his inauguration fell on New Year's Day. He hasn't missed a football game since, though not all New Haven residents think that's something to brag about. The mayor's Republican opponent in this year's race, city alderman Jonathan Einhorn, made Daniels's moonlighting a campaign issue.