Maverick and Iceman aren't just two top Naval aviators. They're two naval aviators both competing for the Top Gun trophy, and for bragging rights. They both think they're the best pilot in the Navy, and one could do worse than describe Top Gun as a game between Maverick and Iceman (in the air, on the volleyball court, in the classroom). While Iceman is pretty much always "in the lead," with Maverick a close second, and while Iceman ultimately wins the trophy, it is Maverick who saves the day. Maverick wins the battle that matters at the end of the film, and he wins the battle for the viewer's heart. Something about Iceman just doesn't connect (he's too "cold" for most us), and it is Maverick that we always end up rooting for.
Questions About Competition
Why isn't Maverick able to win the Top Gun trophy? Is he playing the game incorrectly? Is he better in real life than "on the court," so to speak?
Is it fair that Maverick and Co. have to compete against guys like Viper and Jester, who have way more experience than they do?
What's the point of the volleyball scene? What does it show us about the competition between Maverick and Iceman?
Are the pilots not named Maverick, Goose, Iceman, and Slider even competitive? We never hear about them as being serious rivals for the trophy.
Chew on This
Competition is a great thing, even among guys that are on the same team. It encourages everybody to be the best they can be.
People who are competitive are competitive at everything—Maverick and Iceman compete in the air, in the locker room, and just about everywhere else.