July 18, 2006

One-eyed referee sues Big Ten over firing: Can a football referee call a game with just one eye?

Despite what some fans might say, James Filson, a Big Ten conference football referee, says he did it for years successfully and has the ability -- and the right -- to keep officiating games.

posted by AaronGNP to football at 09:55 PM - 44 comments

Hell a lot of referees can't ref a game with two good eyes...OU at Texas Tech...those refs should of been fired and jailed

posted by sgtcookzane at 10:16 PM on July 18

In the land of blind men, the one-eyed man is king.

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:42 PM on July 18

There is precedence of referees/umpires in major sports being blind in one eye. Heck, one of them is in the hall of fame!

posted by grum@work at 12:14 AM on July 19

Making a comment on a topic like this is like going through a mine field on a pogo stick. If you say you don't feel he can do the job, your a shit heel for being against the disabeld. If on the other hand you take the politically correct position, you have to say, sure, he can do just as good a job as someone with two eyes. And thus common sense dies a little more. There can only be one standard. He has to be able to do the job as well as the rest of the officials on the field. This is not like a work place where a ramp can be built or the right toilet can be installed. There are many profesions that the disabled had been kept of, that have been opened up by the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, as politically incorrect as it is to say, there are some jobs the disabled can't do.I would never hire a blind man to paint my house or a person with no fingers as a typist. The only question here is, can a man with one good eye, see as good as a man with two good eyes. Close one eye and answer this one for yourself. The very nature of an officals job is to watch the field of play for rules infractions. Vision is the number one physical requirement to do the job. If under the ADA you say this man has to be given his job back, whats next, an offical in a wheel chair?

posted by CB900 at 01:32 AM on July 19

"The only question here is, can a man with one good eye, see as good as a man with two good eyes." Actually, the only question here is can a man with one good eye do the job as well as a man with two good eyes. You know, sometimes, they just can.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:15 AM on July 19

Was he the same official that was at the Michigan-Ohio State game that missed the fact that the receiver went out of bounds without being pushed and came back in play to make a catch inside the 10 that led to the winning TD last year? If so, keep him out. The close one trick does not really give an honest accessment as the body can adjust and compensate to many handicaps. If they can review his performance(compares to other officials) and the present rules do not specifically state that an official have 2 good eyes then you bring him back. But definitely make it that from now on they meet the standards of 2 eye vision as the peripheral vision is diminished with only one eye.

posted by lpaulson at 02:17 AM on July 19

Was Wesley Walker the most amazing story or what? As a kid growing up, I watched him do his thing, and I didn't realize the magnitude of his achievement. He made it to two Pro Bowls as a receiver, catching 71 TDs in a long and illustrious career (for a Jet in the 80's, anyway), with just the one eye. That's an absurd skill to perform as long as he did with no depth perception at all. I reiterate that (props, Mr. Bismarck) because if Filson has shown over years of performance that he's capable of doing it, then why shouldn't he be allowed to stay? I'm not saying all one-eyed people can call games, any more than I'm saying that one-eyed receivers should all make the Pro Bowl. But this particular one? Why not? If he can take the ribbing being a one-eyed referee will surely bring and still do his job okay, then what's the problem?

posted by chicobangs at 03:25 AM on July 19

I ref'd for three seasons back when I was in college. Strictly small-time (though every league acted like every game was the Super Bowl.) There were two types of officials I hated on my crews. The ones too scared to blow the whistle and the ones who were out of shape. As long as he handled his duties and wasn't huffing and puffing by the end of the first quarter, I wouldn't have had any problems working with Filson. But I can understand the Big Ten's point of view. Filson is a media relations nightmare. Sure he was able to do his job for five years with only one eye. But now that his secret is known, every bad call would be blamed on him, no matter where he was on the field. And by default, the conference would be ripped by both the media and fans. I hope Filson gets back pay and damages and whatever other fees he wants. But I don't think he gets reinstated. Even with two eyes, I just can't see it.

posted by forrestv at 04:37 AM on July 19

CB, I think you're trying to simply this too much. It may not be as black-and-white as you're making it. Granted this is a very one-sided story. But if he can prove what he says is true-- that he was told there'd be hell to pay if he missed a call and it's only a PR move-- then he deserves his job back. However, we don't know, maybe the Big Ten gave him a couple second chances but he kept messing up. Maybe there's a paper trail. We don't know. Maybe that blind man learned how to paint a house by feeling his way along, and the guy without fingers can type with his toes. I'm not saying i'd hire them either, but don't be too quick to make a decision. Just saying there's a gray area, that's all. On a less serious note... We are talking about Big Ten officials so he doesn't have much to live up to.

posted by SummersEve at 06:27 AM on July 19

He can do it. If he never told anyone, and no one suspected that he ailed, and his performance reviews were on the level, then I can't see why he should go.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:25 AM on July 19

He can always get a job in the NFL, surely he could do no worse than some of the blind ass calls made in the postseason last year.

posted by mjkredliner at 12:16 PM on July 19

Summer, it has to be that black and white. Its the gray area, or rather the interpretation of of the gray area that causes problems. What is the exception today is the rule tomorrow. This is what causes the erosion of standards. Today its a man with one eye, tomorrow its someone with something else using the one eyed man as an example. As for saying you put him on notice that if he blows a call there will be hell to pay, now you are holding him to a different standard.

posted by CB900 at 01:03 PM on July 19

Ironic case. I think that the referee is fully entitled to keep his job, especially since his calls are accurate. They should make some sort of test for him to take so he can prove he is capable. btw- Did anyone see that amazing game saving call in the Yankees games last night?

posted by redsoxrgay at 01:35 PM on July 19

Its the gray area, or rather the interpretation of of the gray area that causes problems. I think the problems may arise because we try to make things black-and-white. By your logic, I'm a better ref because I have two eyes. I'm pretty sure that's not the case. Today its a man with one eye, tomorrow its someone with something else using the one eyed man as an example. That's circular logic. Plus, his argument is that he wasn't fired because he couldn't do his job, he was fired because of possible imaging problems. If they can prove he can't do his job than his suit holds no water. He isn't saying he should be a ref because he only has one eye, he saying he shouldn't have been fired only because he has one eye. As for saying you put him on notice that if he blows a call there will be hell to pay, now you are holding him to a different standard. I was paraphrasing from the linked story... And, yes, it is holding him to a different standard. ...he was told that if he "missed a judgement call, which all officials do from time to time, and the public or coaches knew he only had one eye he would have 'hell to pay,' " according to the lawsuit. But again, this is only one side of the story. He may have been a terrible ref for all we know.

posted by SummersEve at 02:42 PM on July 19

CB900, it may astonish you to learn this, but people with one eye are allowed to drive in the United States.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:07 PM on July 19

"CB900, it may astonish you to learn this, but people with one eye are allowed to drive in the United States." Thats a whole 'nother' argument, but if there were as many auto crashes as there are bad calls in the Big Ten, There would be a big problem.

posted by bo_fan at 03:57 PM on July 19

My boss at work was legally blind, but she sat the driving test and passed, and they gave her a company car. After the first trip to a meeting, however, I did opt to catch the bus back.

posted by owlhouse at 04:11 PM on July 19

No lbb, it does not astonish me that people with one eye are allowed to drive in the United States. So are people who can't walk, whats your point. That if you can drive a car you can offiiciate a football game? My point is that the NCAA and the Big Ten have a right to set the qualifications for its officials. Both in knowledge of the game and in physical requirements. By your logic, I'm a better ref because I have two eyes. Not if you don"t have the knowledge and experience he has. And your right, I don't know how good or bad a ref he is. Just that he no longer meets the physical requirements set down for the job.

posted by CB900 at 04:12 PM on July 19

If under the ADA you say this man has to be given his job back, whats next, an offical in a wheel chair? The ADA prevents discrimination against an employee who can do the "essential functions." If his work in the past shows that he was able to do the job, then they can't fire him because he has a disability. As for the wheelchair question, the employer gets to decide what is an essential function -- running can certainly be one of them and so can good vision.

posted by bperk at 04:18 PM on July 19

At least he has a heck of an excuse if he blows a call!

posted by hayesml47 at 04:48 PM on July 19

Under the ADA, he's required to be able to perform the essential functions of the job. He has been. As long as his performance continues to meet the standards and his disability doesn't interfere with the game (as a wheelchair on the field would), I don't see any excuse for firing him. Would he be a better ref if he had two eyes? Probably, but he'd probably be better if he had 20 more points on his IQ or if he could run the 100 in 10 flat, too. The point is that he's intelligent enough to understand the rules and make the calls, and he runs well enough to keep up with the pace of the game. Sounds like he sees well enough to get the job done, too.

posted by ctal1999 at 07:00 PM on July 19

No lbb, it does not astonish me that people with one eye are allowed to drive in the United States. So are people who can't walk, whats your point. My point, question mark, is that you're getting your knickers in a knot over the very idea that the guy is visually impaired, while people with the same impairment are allowed to do something for which visual acuity is a)essential and b)tested. He's a referee, not an airline pilot, ya know.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:25 PM on July 19

Zing! Give it up, CB. Your getting killed out there.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:57 PM on July 19

He's a referee, not an airline pilot, ya know. No he's not an airline pilot, or a bus driver or a cab driver. He is allowed to drive a car and could most likely get a motorcycle license. What is your point??? He is not trying to get a job in the transportation industry. He is however a Big Ten football official. And the NCAA and the Big Ten require he has two good eyes to do the job. Not an unreasonable request for a job thats soul reason for being is watching a fast paced game for adherence to the rules. Watching by nature requires that you must be able to see.

posted by CB900 at 09:37 PM on July 19

LOL, your right Weedy. But swimming up stream is such good exercise.

posted by CB900 at 09:43 PM on July 19

What is your point??? My point is one that will never make any sense to one who insists that visual acuity is more important when officiating a game than when driving a car.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:09 PM on July 19

lbb, you are comparing apples and helicopters. Maybe in your world driving a car is the standard by which all things are measured. And I guess I do see your point, but if you put a hat on it won't show. I at no time made any judgement as to the importance of visual acuity for driving a car versus officiating a football game. But I think you will find a one eyed man can't get a CDL for driving a truck. My point all along has been that the NCAA and the Big Ten have set the standards, and he does not meet those standards. If an exception is made for him,it will have to be made for the next guy. This is what causes erosion of the standards.

posted by CB900 at 10:55 PM on July 19

My point all along has been that the NCAA and the Big Ten have set the standards, and he does not meet those standards. CB... According the linked story, he called games for five years after he lost his eye apparently without incident. One of those years he was even awarded a spot in the Orange Bowl. So apparently the standards you trying to base your argument on don't say you need both eyes to be a ref. And apparently he fulfilled the requirements of his job. But I do agree with you, what does driving have to do with this? Toonces would have been a terrible ref.

posted by SummersEve at 04:18 AM on July 20

CB, you're saying, in effect, that the NCAA and Big Ten have this two-eyed standard, and that it's the standard by gum, and that it's a good standard because...it's the standard. So there. But as ctal pointed out, under ADA people are supposed to be judged by whether they can do the job, not by how many body parts they have or what shape they're in. The connection to driving is a simple one: that standard uses an actual test of visual acuity -- and allows for the possibility that a person with one eye can indeed have vision that's good enough -- as opposed to a standard that prejudges based on the number of body parts and completely disregards whether a person can do the job. The latter is archaic. That's all.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:43 AM on July 20

Lbb, I think you put way to much stock in a DMV eye test. My mother passed one at the age of 82, and she had cataracts in both eyes. As I recall the test was given by an over worked, under paid, state employee with a bad attitude. You say the word standards as if they are a bad thing. That is whats wrong with this country today. If someone can't pass a test, change the test. If someone is not qualified for a job, change the qualifications. It is the ever lowering of standards and expectations that has left us trailing much of the world in education, science, manufacturing and put George Bush in the White House. The DMV and the DOT do have a standard that prejudges a person based on the number of body parts. A person with one eye cannot get a CDL to drive a commercial vehicle. They have set that standard to qualify for the job.

posted by CB900 at 03:13 PM on July 20

CB, it seems that your argument boils down to "Rules are rules". From a strictly legal standpoint, you may have a leg to stand on, though that can be argued since the ADA was set up expressly for the purpose of eliminating this type of rule. In addition, even if you can argue that it's legal, that doesn't make it right. Since an argument can be made either way on the legality issue, I tend to look at which decision is best from a moral and ethical standpoint. Clearly, he's been able to do the job for several years. The only reason to let him go is because the rules say so. Well, since the legality of the rule in question is dubious, and since his performance gives the lie to its appropriateness, it seems to make more sense to revise an unreaslistic rule than it does to fire an accomplished official.

posted by ctal1999 at 03:16 PM on July 20

I don't think it is an unrealistic rule ctal. And yes, sad as it is to say, rules have to be rules. I would be all for making an exception for this guy today,if you could guarantee me that some asshole attorney won't use him as precedence tomorrow to get a blind man on the field. If there is one thing I have come to expect, nothing is to ridiculis to end up in court. What a person can or can't see is an unknown. Unless you can look through his eyes how do you know. There has to be some kind of standard by which it is decided if someone is physically able to do the job. There is also the matter of credibility. Every call he does or does not make is going to be suspect. Sad as it is to say, people will use this to undermine his and the Big Ten's credibility.

posted by CB900 at 04:14 PM on July 20

And yes, sad as it is to say, rules have to be rules. Fine. I'm making a rule. You, CB900, are no longer to utter tautologies as if they were evidence or logical support for an argument. I would be all for making an exception for this today, if you could guarantee me that tomorrow you won't be hurtling down the slippery slope, bellowing, "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose!" at the top of your lungs. There has to be standards, by gosh dingies dayumm! Doesn't matter if somebody pulled 'em out of their ass, there has to be standards!!!

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:25 PM on July 20

as if they were logical support for an argument Lbb, you are living proof that there needs to be standards. I have been trying to make my point in a logical manner.You on the other hand, after stating in a some what snotty manner, that he would be allowed to drive a car, have had nothing else to add to this. All rules are arbitrary (Doesn't matter if somebody pulled em out of their ass) and unfair to the people who find themselves on the wrong side of them. Just to let you know that I am not speaking in the hypotheacal. I had a job with a MLB team until three years ago. A little over three years ago I started to have some medical problems. It turned out that these problems are perment and as a result I have had to go on disability. I guess I could have fought this move by the team, but it would not change the fact that I could not do the job as well as I had been able to. Maybe I should have told the team thay had to keep me, because I can still drive a car. If as you say rules don't have to be rules and we don't need standards. What the fuck do we need officials for anyway.

posted by CB900 at 07:22 PM on July 20

CB, seriously, it seems like your avoiding the facts to support your argument. Read the linked article. Then please explain to me why he can't do his job if he did his job for five years and was even rewarded with an Orange Bowl assignment. Your argument might be valid if he showed up for work the day after the accident or tried to keep it a secret. But he told them about it, then worked for five years. So there's no erosion of standards. It was a piss-poor PR move.

posted by SummersEve at 07:28 PM on July 20

Summer what do you think is going to happen everytime someone disagrees with a call he makes. Or the call he doesn't make. Yes this is a PR nightmare, no matter how you look at it. Any action the Big Ten and the NCAA were going to take should have been taken five years ago. I am not avoiding the fact that he has been doing the job for the last five years. I am simply making the point that if an exception is made for him, it will have to be made for all. This is when the ability to set standards is lost. I know nothing about this man or how good an official he is. I will say this, as a Wisconsin Badger fan I think the officials in the Big Ten suck.

posted by CB900 at 08:31 PM on July 20

I am not avoiding the fact that he has been doing the job for the last five years. I am simply making the point that if an exception is made for him, it will have to be made for all. This is when the ability to set standards is lost. You absolutely are avoiding that fact. Your assumption that an "exception" is being made is inherently false with the information we have. Since he performed his job to the point of recieving a major bowl assignment, what does he need an exception from? The "standards" you continue to cite? Where do they come from, NCAA guidelines? Big Ten handbook? It's circular logic. What do you think is going to happen everytime someone disagrees with a call he makes. You say yourself that Big Ten officiating sucks, so apparently you feel they regularly miss calls. What happens everytime someone disagrees with the calls the two-eyed folks make? I bet it's the same as the one-eyed guy minus some small-minded insults thrown in.

posted by SummersEve at 06:35 AM on July 21

I don't even understand this discussion because we have absolutely no evidence that the Big Ten has any standards or rules that would prevent someone with one eye officiating. If they have something like an annual vision test, then obviously he must have been passing it. I am not sure that they even have any standards that relate to one's ability to do the job since Big Ten officials are pretty bad.

posted by bperk at 08:26 AM on July 21

Good catch, bperk! In going back over the article, it doesn't say anything about Big 10 rules that prevent someone with one eye from officiating, only that coaches complained and the Big 10 agreed that he had to go. That doesn't neccessarily mean there is no such rule, but we've all been operating under the assumption that there is. If there isn't one, the Big Ten is on even thinner ice!

posted by ctal1999 at 09:30 AM on July 21

Good catch bperk HEY! What do you think i meant by this: The "standards" you continue to cite? Where do they come from, NCAA guidelines? Big Ten handbook? It's circular logic. That's one of the points I'm making here. The other point is he really hasn't gotten an exemption from anything.

posted by SummersEve at 09:40 AM on July 21

Hey, sorry for stealing your thunder. Man up!

posted by bperk at 10:13 AM on July 21

'scool... It was piss-poor typing on my part. Here's a witty take on the situation. (You'll have to scroll down and skip to page three for the part about Filson.)

posted by SummersEve at 10:53 AM on July 21

As I was saying... A witty take on Filson (sportsftilter and firefox aren't getting along today. The above post was okay on preview.)

posted by SummersEve at 12:12 PM on July 21

Sorry there SummersEve. I missed that. Cudos to you, too!

posted by ctal1999 at 10:30 PM on July 21

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