Coach Greg Schiano talks to referee John Parry during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Giants. Until the lockout of regular NFL referees ends, replacement refs will keep calling games. (AP)

Coach Greg Schiano talks to referee John Parry during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Giants. Until the lockout of regular NFL referees ends, replacement refs will keep calling games. (AP)

Perhaps the organized officials who haven’t worked the first couple of weeks of the NFL season hoped their replacements would embarrass themselves and the league.

Certainly they have. Games have turned on missed calls. Confusion, some of it angry, has been evident among officials, players, coaches, and fans. One of last week’s goofier stories involved a replacement official scheduled to work a New Orleans Saints game. He was excused after the league’s crack security team discovered that he’d posted on Facebook photos of himself celebrating in a Saints jersey. He apparently hadn’t heard that NFL stands for “No Fun League.”

But the regular officials are not rooting for injuries, or even for the league to sink further into buffoonery, any more than Chicago’s teachers were hoping parents would lose their jobs because they couldn’t drop their kids off at school. Workers who’ve won the right to bargain over salaries and working conditions—whether their work is officiating football games, teaching school, or building cars—would be at the mercy of their not-dependably-merciful employers without that right. So they defend it.

It’s easy to forget this when the workers are referees, and easier when they are players, because lots of fans go around saying silly things like, “I’d do what those guys do for free.”

Currently, “those guys” include the NHL players who have been locked out by the owners. Like their counterparts in the other major league sports, they are the world’s best at what they do, their careers are short, and they are likely to get injured at work.

The NHL is no stranger to lockouts, one of which wiped out the 2004-2005 season. Regarding the current work stoppage, you can support the players or the owners, but you can’t argue that the players don’t want to play. Numbers of them are planning to play somewhere else until the rinks in the U.S. and Canada are unlocked.

For a time, Chicago’s administrators and politicians couldn’t reach an agreement with public school teachers, but did either side want education to stop? No. This reasoning also applies to football officials and hockey players and the leagues wherein they work. Nobody on either side wants to diminish the game that’s enriching or employing them; both sides fight for more control and money. Like democracy, collective bargaining can be messy, contentious, and cumbersome. It can seem a crazy way to do business, until you consider the alternatives.