The same mentality is often applied to competitive sports. There's camaraderie amongst teammates, but it's rare that friendships are burgeoned beyond one's squad. The opposing team is the enemy, and the enemy must be squashed. In hockey, fighting between opponents is commonplace, and just part of the game.
In baseball, fighting occurs far less often, but when it does, it can be severe and serious. Just last year, we saw a shocking (and really awesome) brawl in the NBA between the Pistons and the Pacers, with players punching each other in the face, and even some fans getting involved.
Even in tennis, competitors try to remain as distant from each other as possible in order to avoid any feeling of remorse or sympathy for their opponents. There's competitive respect between players, but friendships are rare.
Walking around the poker room today during the first rounds of the H.O.R.S.E. competition, I had a bit of a revelation: this dehumanization of opponents doesn't seem to occur in poker. Watching the H.O.R.S.E. competition was incredible, essentially because it was like watching the all-star game of poker. Every big name was there, and there were hardly any unknowns. Stacked tables were everywhere you turned. It was a thrilling environment.
The great thing about today's tournament was the amount of camaraderie that you felt in the room. All these huge name pros aren't staring each other down and sizing each other up with scowls on their faces. They haven't dehumanized their enemy. In fact, their enemy seems to often be their best friend.
Constantly throughout the day, there were stories being told, eruptions of laughter, smiles and handshakes. The feeling wasn't one of a bunch of soldiers ready to go to war with one another. Actually, it felt like everyone in the room was playing on the same team.
It's hard to wrap your head around this dichotomous relationship. These pros make their living off defeating one another, exploiting weaknesses and relentlessly pushing forward in the same way that any army or athlete does. But somehow, with their careers and livelihood at stake, they're able to laugh it up, shake hands, and forget that they should be acting like the enemies they are.
To wrap this up, I'll throw in this quote I found while I was digging around and doing research for this article. I'm not a fan of "M*A*S*H" - at all - but this is something that some guy named Colonel Potter once said on the show that can be applied fairly appropriately to this discussion:
"Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him."