I am quoted in an article in today's New York Times (Style Section) about men who bet each other about how much weight they can lose. Essentially, this is a new form of competition. Men make bets and, depending on the nature of the bet, have to pay each other, give to a charity they like, or give to a poliitician they hate, if they lose. (Imagine a Democrat paying out to George Bush's Library or a Republican supporting Bill Clinton's.)
My specific quote centers on this kind of competition being a return to the playground where boys compete around who can run fastest or throw the farthest. Such betting also allows men a modicum of closeness. If a straight man feels a little uncomfortable showing too much interest in another man who is a friend, betting with him (or teasing him) can be a way to maintain contact in a way that feels safe - there is a competitive distance. Remember - men like shoulder-to-shoulder interactions while women like face-to-face interactions (discussed in Buddy System: Understanding male friendships). Competition allows for men to have these types of interactions.