Being competitive vs. being a douche
We're currently in season 13 of MasterChef Australia, and as usual, i'm enjoying watching it. i'm not a fan of ‘reality’ tv overall, but i make an exception for MC, even though i'm not a foodie. i make an exception because the series is strongly oriented towards friendly competition, rather than aggressive / narky / backstabbing competition.
During one elimination episode of a previous season, a contestant had completely dropped the ball, and was struggling to continue. Another contestant went over to her and helped her get back on track, despite being up for elimination herself. The struggling contestant still ended up being eliminated, but to me, that incident is a nice summary of the overall feel of the show. The competition between the contestants is shown as intense-but-friendly (and often actively supportive). MasterChef Australia separates ‘being competitive’ from ‘being a douche’.
Another example of how competitiveness and douchiness don't need to be synonymous is provided by the New Zealand cricket team, the Black Caps. The team is widely recognised and respected for the sporting way in which they play the game. But which team not only reached the 2019 World Cup final, tied the game, and then only lost because of an obscure tie-breaker rule[a]? And which team is about to compete against India in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship? In both cases, it's the Black Caps.
In my experience, a standard trope amongst many ‘progressives’ is that competition is Bad, and in fact downright Evil. Well, sure, if competition is treated as inherently or necessarily involving Doing Whatever It Takes to bring the other person down in an attempt to win[b] - even if victory is pyrrhic as a result - then of course it's going to be destructive. But as the above demonstrates, competition doesn't have to be that way.☙
[a] And there was wonderful video of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson being told he was Man of the Tournament for the 2019 World Cup: one can clearly see his surprise as he mouths "Me???"
[b] Which is certainly how it seems to be in US culture, at least to this outsider.