Fairness (A)

Fairness (A) is the fairness of meeting expectations. Regardless of whether a particular practice is equitable (appealing to fairness (B)), or meritocratic (fairness (C)), tourneys are often judged to be unfair because they’re not run the way that people expect them to be run.

Most of the discussion of fairness on tourneygeek concerns fairness (B) or fairness (C). There’s a good reason for that – tourneygeek seeks, where it can, to provide clear answers to questions or whether something is more or less fair, and so tends to concentrate on the two sorts of fairness that are, at least to some extent, quantifiable. Fairness (A), in contrast, is unquantifiable because people’s expectations tend to be qualitative rather than quantitative. Thus disputes about fairness (A) can rarely be definitively resolved.

But this does not mean that fairness (A) is unimportant, or that there’s nothing sensible to say about why some fairness (A) claims are stronger than others.

The strength or weakness of a fairness (A) argument depends on two factors: the source of the expectation, and the degree to which that expectation is relied upon. Considering the source goes to whether the expectation is reasonable, and considering the degree of reliance goes to whether the expectation is consequential.

The next two posts will work through an example to show how considerations of source and reliance might help us assess the strength of a fairness claim in a particular context.




5 thoughts on “Fairness (A)”

  1. The biggest example of fairness A is the recharge round. Some people see it as unfair that the winner’s bracket winner recharge can lose once and be knocked out of the tournament, while everyone else gets two losses.


  2. I think football overtime rules also play into fairness (A) a lot. The NCAA uses a simple rule that appears to be fair. One team starts on offense and then the teams switch after a turnover or points are scored. On the other hand, the NFL’s rules are confusing to any non-serious fan. The team that starts on offense will win the game automatically with a touchdown, meaning the other team’s offense won’t even get a chance. While it appears that the NCAA rules are more fair, in reality both rules result in one team winning 55% of the time, a pretty big advantage given to a team that did nothing but win a coin toss.


    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve always been a bit uneasy with the NCAA overtime rule, and I’m not so sure that it’s really much more straightforward than the NFL overtime rule.

      It does seem fair to ensure that both teams get a chance on offense, but I agree that this is a fairness (A) sort of fairness. If both methods give a 55/45 advantage to the winner of the coin toss, that seems to suggest that the extra play that happens in NCAA games isn’t doing much to improve fairness (C).

      What bothers me most about the NCAA rule is the way it distorts the final score. A game that was tied 17-17 at the end of regulation gets reported as ending 58-56. And extreme example, perhaps, but I think that in general just adding the overtime points to the final score makes more it difficult to use scores as a guide to visualizing what sort of game was played.

      I think that elaborate overtime rules can reflect an unwillingness to acknowledge how much chance there is in a regular game. The difference between a game that ends, say, 17-16 and one that’s 17-19 is, very likely, the result of a number of critical plays that all had a large component of chance to them – a group of chance events that, collectively, show much more of a random influence than a single coin toss. It seems a bit precious to me to worry about letting a coin toss influence how you break a 17-17 tie if you don’t worry about the influence of a dozen unlikely chance events that all conspired to produce the tie in the first place.


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