Sports would seem an obvious choice for a competitive atmosphere. However, orchestra is even more intense and stressful. When you are a member of a sports team, you are above all trying to ensure the victory for the team as a whole. A standard situation: In basketball or soccer, a player might be X feet away from the basket/goal. If he shoots from where he is, he'll have a 80% chance of scoring and taking individual glory. If he passes to his teammate, the chance of scoring is 95. He is expected to pass and probably will.
However, this concept of sharing so the group is the best does not exist in orchestra. In an orchestra, the way to get the group to be better is to simply try as hard as you can to make yourself better. And when every musician is striving to improve their individual abilities, the music played by the whole group is more beautiful.
Why would an individual try so hard? This is because of the system used by almost every serious orchestra in the world: the chair/seating system. Generally speaking, in this seating system the better of a musician you are, the more to the front and closer to the audience you will be. The first chair is best, then second, then third, then fourth...this numbered ranking continues until the very least visible (and skilled) musician. (Of course, this system assumes the conductor or sectional leader is assigning seats based solely on ability and not personal or political bias; that's a whole other swamp of drama.) If I went to an orchestra using the seating system, and you gave me a sheet of paper with the faces and names of every musician, I could accurately rank every player in terms of ability in relation to the rest of the group, without hearing anyone play. "He is the seventh chair cellist." In sports, there are cuts to determine Varsity, Junior Varsity, and the C Team; in orchestra, the feared seating audition makes every individual, every seat, into it's own category, with as many differentiated categories as there are members in a section.
Everyone on a sports team also wants to be the best, but this is up to players personally, not instituted upon them. Classification of sports player abilities ends at the organizational level - he's a point guard because he's better at passing than aggressive drives needed by power forwards; X is the starting shooting guard because he's better at that than Y who also plays that position. But is Y better than fellow bench shooting guard Z? Sometimes the answer may be clear, but sometimes it may not. When the two are quite close in ability, there is no absolute way to rank and compare the two. In orchestra, no matter the pair, one musician will always have the lower number. The formal organization of a sports team is based mainly in what position you play; an orchestra organizes itself into first instruments played and then individual prestige within that section. This ranking system is often very stressful and important to musicians because of how clear and codified it is. Moving down a seat is a horrible feeling to someone who has practiced hard. I find that orchestras do not have the same cameraderie sports teams have, even though both are groups that meet on regular schedules together for hours. This is because in orchestra, the group's success is the result of every man being out for himself. If my friend aims for my chair in orchestra, and she gets it, the orchestra as a whole will have benefited from her working hard to reach me and me working hard to stay better than her. Nobody cares that I have moved down a seat.
Whatever drama not already present comes in full force when the conductor or other authority figure assigning chairs is suspected of making unfair decisions.
My friend Maeve, a highly skilled violinist, wrote "Orchestra in a sense is a highly cooperative setting where your entire focus is on other individuals and the precise mirroring of each other's expression, articulation, etc. It is, however, also incredibly cutthroat, and probably the only thing that keeps [the orchestra] together (especially young orchestras) is the unifying presence of the conductor - which is why having an effective conductor is so important.
"I would also contend that the ranking system, though highly stressful, is important because it allows you to know where you stand. It can be a huge motivator that helps maintain the necessary individual excellence. I believe that it also fosters a sense of respect for those who have done better than you, allowing each player to feel like they earned their seat and to be able to defer to the authority of section leaders at the same time. Of course, this doesn't always play out perfectly, and it often breeds resentment and distrust amongst players. Which is where the drama you mentioned comes into play. " This drama and tension and constant drive existing in this structured system based on respect is what made me want to read a manga about orchestra; I think the emotional impact could be very interesting.
Then, I stumbled upon this manga called Bambino!, which I marathoned in a day, transfixed by the familiarity of a world that wasn't mine. Bambino! is about the day-to-day operations of a fine Italian restaurant. While reading, I suddenly realized that the environment of the kitchen is similar to the environment of the orchestra, in terms of how people exert themselves and how they treat the people around them. In basketball you may skip exerting yourself to the best of your ability because letting someone else work will be better for the team; in a kitchen, as in orchestra, only by every individual performing at their personal peak level can the kitchen or orchestra as a whole improve. Food and cooking have a lot more visual options than orchestra rehearsal too, so a cooking manga will not fall short visually. Thinking about it, the movie Ratatouille does a pretty nice drama; because Bambino! is a manga with a long serialization, of course it is even more intense.
Who knew I would find the orchestra feeling in a cooking manga! And by the way, Bambino! Secondo is also an excellent choice for people who love action and food.