Professional games and sports need to be organized so that the competition is interesting to watch. And one frequent way to do this is to keep the ultimate outcome of an individual contest in doubt for as long as possible. The techniques for doing this often compromise fairness and other values.
Consider, for example, a common feature of television game shows – the crescendo of points in an individual episode. The later rounds are worth more points than the early rounds, so that even a team or a player who falls badly behind in the early part of the show can win with a dramatic come-from-behind performance at the end.
Another technique is to have to convert early-round results into an advantage in a single, determinative round at the end. The player who did well in the early going is more likely to win, but the matter is still in doubt until the end of the show. This method is probably better, at least in terms of fairness (C), than the crescendo of points, but both weaken the relationship between playing well and winning.
In game shows, perhaps, a crescendo of points is acceptable – we don’t really expect careful fairness (C) concerns to govern game shows. But a crescendo of points seems to be unacceptable in professional sports. So other methods are used to keep the outcome of a game in doubt. I’ll discuss some of these in the next few posts.