FIG NEWTONS VS. NEWT GINGRICH

CATEGORY: Popularity
COOKIE: Third most popular cookie in the U.S.
POLITICIAN: 60% national unfavorable rating

CATEGORY: Origins
COOKIE: Ancient Egypt
POLITICIAN: Georgia

CATEGORY: Controversies
COOKIE: Dropped “fig” from name
POLITICIAN: Freddie Mac, House Banking scandal, Tiffany’s spending spree, etc. etc.

CATEGORY: Firsts
COOKIE: One of the first commercially baked products in U.S.
POLITICIAN: Divorced first wife during cancer treatment

CATEGORY: Health
COOKIE: Source of dietary fiber
POLITICIAN: Health care think tank filed for bankruptcy

CATEGORY: Kennedy Connection
COOKIE: Created by Kennedy Biscuit Factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts
POLITICIAN: Kennedy-esque “moon base” speech

CATEGORY: Adultery
COOKIE: None
POLITICIAN: At least three extramarital affairs

CATEGORY: Endorsements
COOKIE: Cookie Monster
POLITICIAN: Chuck Norris

WINNER: Fig Newtons, the cookie

MOTHER TERESA VS. TERESA GIUDICE

CATEGORY: Signature Look
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Blue and white sari
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Leopard-print bikini

CATEGORY:  Financial Generosity
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Donated millions to poor
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Spent $8,800 on curtains after declaring bankruptcy

CATEGORY: Miracles
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Healed tumor in Indian woman
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Didn’t use a tampon till age 27

CATEGORY: Tables Flipped in a Blind Rage
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: None
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: At least one

CATEGORY: For the Kids
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Opened orphanages, schools, hospices for lost children
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Hosted children’s fashion show fundraiser

CATEGORY: Bombastic Critic
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Christopher Hitchens
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Caroline Manzo

CATEGORY: Marriage
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Vow of celibacy
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Cheating husband probably going to prison

CATEGORY: Best-selling Works
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: Where There Is Love, There Is God
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Fabulicious!

CATEGORY: Lifetime Honor
SAINT OF THE GUTTERS: 1979 Nobel Peace Prize
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF NEW JERSEY: Fifth place on Celebrity Apprentice

WINNER: The Blessed Mother

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL VS. SHAKE SHACK

CATEGORY: Locations
BASKETBALL GIANT: 6, most recently Boston
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: 15, most recently Kuwait City

CATEGORY: Humble Beginnings
BASKETBALL GIANT: Juvenile delinquent
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: Hot dog cart

CATEGORY: Name Origin
BASKETBALL GIANT: “Little Warrior” in Arabic
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: “Grease” musical

CATEGORY: Annoyance Factor
BASKETBALL GIANT: Rap albums
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: Long lines

CATEGORY: Hygiene
BASKETBALL GIANT: Passed on making sweat cologne
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: Paint scrapers used on griddles

CATEGORY: Calorie Intake
BASKETBALL GIANT: $110,000 monthly food budget
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: 750 calories in Double ShackBurger

CATEGORY: Dog Friendly
BASKETBALL GIANT: Recorded with Snoop Dogg
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: Frozen custard dog snacks

CATEGORY: Higher Education
BASKETBALL GIANT: Doctorate
FAST FOOD EMPIRE: Dr. Pepper

WINNER: Shaq

BENJAMIN “BIBI” NETANYAHU VS. BEBE NEUWIRTH

CATEGORY: First Job
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israeli Defense Forces
THE ACTRESS: A Chorus Line

CATEGORY: Professional Vow
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Stop Iran uranium enrichment
THE ACTRESS: Dance every day

CATEGORY: Famous hangout
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Beit Aghion, Jerusalem
THE ACTRESS: Cheers bar, Boston

CATEGORY: Tonys
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: One: Middle East peace envoy, Tony Blair
THE ACTRESS: Two: for Chicago and Sweet Charity

CATEGORY: Unconvincing Relationship
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Allies with Obama
THE ACTRESS: Married to Nathan Lane (in Addam’s Family musical)

CATEGORY: Injuries
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Shot during Six-Day War
THE ACTRESS: Damaged hip cartilage doing Broadway musical

CATEGORY: Drugs
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Legalized medical marijuana
THE ACTRESS: Arrested at 13 for smoking pot

CATEGORY: Sex Ed
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Bureau chief sex scandal
THE ACTRESS: Blowjob lessons in Woody Allen movie

CATEGORY: Defining Moment
THE ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Bar-Ilan Speech
THE ACTRESS: Fake marriage to Frasier Crane

WINNER: “Bibi” Netanyahu

50 CENT VS. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

CATEGORY: Fanbase
RAPPER: Suburban white kids
MOMMY PORN: Suburban moms

CATEGORY: Art Imitates Life
RAPPER: Former drug dealer/gang member
MOMMY PORN: Midlife crisis “fantasy”

CATEGORY: Embarrassing Origins
RAPPER: Teenage nickname was “Boo Boo”
MOMMY PORN: Twilight fan fiction

CATEGORY: Fashion Accessory
RAPPER: Bulletproof vest
MOMMY PORN: Handcuffs

CATEGORY: Medical Endorsement
RAPPER: Dr. Dre
MOMMY PORN: Dr. Oz

CATEGORY: Multiples
RAPPER: Shot nine times
MOMMY PORN: Heroine has six orgasms

CATEGORY: Feuds
RAPPER: Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Puff Daddy, etc.
MOMMY PORN: Florida library

CATEGORY: Flagellation
RAPPER: Spanking mentioned in “Wanna Get To Know Ya”
MOMMY PORN: Yes. With a whip.

CATEGORY: Boxers or briefs?
RAPPER: Both
MOMMY PORN: Boxers

WINNER: Fiddy

RYNE SANDBERG VS. SHERYL SANDBERG

CATEGORY: Position
BASEBALL LEGEND: Hall of Fame second baseman
THE EXECUTIVE: COO at Facebook

CATEGORY: Time Logged at Losing Organization
BASEBALL LEGEND: 15 years with the Cubs
THE EXECUTIVE: 5 years at Treasury

CATEGORY: Point of Pride
BASEBALL LEGEND: .989 career fielding percentage
THE EXECUTIVE: Never misses a family meal

CATEGORY: Immortalized With Bobblehead
BASEBALL LEGEND: Yes
THE EXECUTIVE: No

CATEGORY: Retirement Plan
BASEBALL LEGEND: Manage minor-league team Lehigh Valley IronPigs
THE EXECUTIVE: Become billionaire

WINNER: Ryne Sandberg

TOMKAT VS. CAT STEVENS

CATEGORY: Philosophy
FOLK SINGER: “Peace Train”
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Scientology

CATEGORY: Life-changing Moment
FOLK SINGER: Nearly drowns in Malibu
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Jumps on Oprah’s couch

CATEGORY: Heritage
FOLK SINGER: Greek and Swedish
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Dead alien souls

CATEGORY: Nemesis
FOLK SINGER: Department of Homeland Security
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: South Park

CATEGORY: Marital Status
FOLK SINGER: Still with wife by arranged marriage
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: “Irreconcilable differences”

CATEGORY: Controversy
FOLK SINGER: Pro-Salman Rushdie fatwa
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Alleged marriage contract

CATEGORY: Feminism
FOLK SINGER: Likes his women “hard-headed”
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: No talking during childbirth

CATEGORY: Religious Conversion
FOLK SINGER: Muslim for 34 years and counting
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: No Sea Org for Suri

CATEGORY: Beard
FOLK SINGER: Yes
HOLLYWOOD COUPLE: Rumored

WINNER: Yusuf Islam

MORGAN FREEMAN VS. MORGAN STANLEY

CATEGORY: Defining Characteristic
MOVIE ACTOR: The voice
INVESTMENT BANKERS: Wealth management

CATEGORY: Hubris
MOVIE ACTOR: Played god in two movies
INVESTMENT BANKERS: “Too big to fail”

CATEGORY: Riches
MOVIE ACTOR: Oscar for Million Dollar Baby
INVESTMENT BANKERS: $100 million profit from Facebook IPO, baby

CATEGORY: Prison
MOVIE ACTOR: Shawshank
INVESTMENT BANKERS: Five years for former executive in China

CATEGORY: Something for Nothing
MOVIE ACTOR: “Honorary” degree at Brown University
INVESTMENT BANKERS: $107 billion bailout

CATEGORY: No Fan Of…
MOVIE ACTOR: Black History month
INVESTMENT BANKERS: The Federal Reserve

CATEGORY: Amateur Physics
MOVIE ACTOR: Electric Company
INVESTMENT BANKERS: Electric cars

CATEGORY: Money Struggles
MOVIE ACTOR: $72 a week for off Broadway debut
INVESTMENT BANKERS: $125,000 bonus cap

CATEGORY: Irked By
MOVIE ACTOR: ‘Married his stepdaughter’ rumors
INVESTMENT BANKERS: Occupy protestors

WINNER: Morgan Freeman

THE KENNEDYS VS. THE KARDASHIANS

CATEGORY: Reputation
THE POLITICIANS: America’s Royal Family
THE REALITY STARS: TMZ fodder

CATEGORY: Political Ambitions
THE POLITICIANS: U.S. Congress, Presidency
THE REALITY STARS: Mayor of Glendale, Calif. (Kim)

CATEGORY: Assassinations
THE POLITICIANS: Two
THE REALITY STARS: Drink thrown at Kim in NY club once

CATEGORY: Baby Naming System
THE POLITICIANS: Descendants, Catholic saints
THE REALITY STARS: The letter K

CATEGORY: Family Feud
THE POLITICIANS: Lyndon Johnson
THE REALITY STARS: Paris Hilton

CATEGORY: Water Mishaps
THE POLITICIANS: Chappaquiddick
THE REALITY STARS: Kourtney’s water broke during filming

CATEGORY: Sex Exploits Caught On Tape?
THE POLITICIANS: Nope
THE REALITY STARS: Yes, and became an Internet sensation

CATEGORY: Unnecessary Surgeries
THE POLITICIANS: Rosemary’s botched lobotomy
THE REALITY STARS: Kim’s (rumored) butt implants

CATEGORY: Embarrassing In-Law
THE POLITICIANS: Arnold Schwarzenegger
THE REALITY STARS: Kris Humphries

CATEGORY: Family Wealth
THE POLITICIANS: Stock-market, real estate, possibly bootlegging
THE REALITY STARS: Wedding and baby photos sold to tabloids

CATEGORY: Namesake
THE POLITICIANS: Library, airport, space station
THE REALITY STARS: Clothing line, $10 bottled water, sunless tanner

CATEGORY: Obama Comparison?
THE POLITICIANS: Yes
THE REALITY STARS: Weirdly, yes

WINNER: The Kennedys by a mile.

(These stories originally appeared, in slightly different forms, in various issues of the New York Times Magazine between May and July, 2012.)