I'm glad this has been broached; I was getting ready to instigate some ideas on this over the next few days.
In a tag to the NBA All-Star Game last night, Chris Rock pointed out that competition in sports gives many cultures an affirmative resolution - someone wins, someone loses (with the interesting exception of futbol, and at some levels, hockey; this could provide some discussion all by itself). This provides a satisfaction missing from most people's lives.
Of course, it also has a polarizing, my city/country/province is better than yours, effect, which, I believe, is counter to what the world actually needs to resolve its real problems. Of course, isn't that, in part, why we are in this wonderful, thoughtful forum in the first place?