PAUL RYAN vs. RuPAUL

CATEGORY: Name origin
CONGRESSMAN: His father
DRAG QUEEN: Roux (gumbo ingredient)

CATEGORY: Early Job
CONGRESSMAN: Drove the Wienermobile
DRAG QUEEN: Danced in “Love Shack” video

CATEGORY: Intellectual Idol
CONGRESSMAN: Ayn Rand
DRAG QUEEN: Judge Judy

CATEGORY: Ironic Quirk
CONGRESSMAN: Loves Rage Against the Machine
DRAG QUEEN: Doesn’t dress up for Halloween

CATEGORY: Coronary health
CONGRESSMAN: Family history of heart disease
DRAG QUEEN: Rumors of heart attack were false

CATEGORY: Friendly Rivalries
CONGRESSMAN: Old people, immigrants
DRAG QUEEN: Milton Berle

CATEGORY: Magnum Opus
CONGRESSMAN: The Ryan budget
DRAG QUEEN: “Glamazon”

WINNER: Paul Ryan

* * *

THE HOLLAND TUNNEL VS. FRANCOIS HOLLANDE

CATEGORY: Length
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: 8,558 feet
FRENCH PRESIDENT: 5-foot-7

CATEGORY: Tolls
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: $12 cash for every car
FRENCH PRESIDENT: 75% income tax on rich

CATEGORY: Innovations
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: Mechanically ventilated
FRENCH PRESIDENT: No mistress

CATEGORY: Not-So-Cute Nickname
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: None
FRENCH PRESIDENT: “Mr Normal”

CATEGORY: Speed Limit
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: 35 M.P.H.
FRENCH PRESIDENT: Clocked at 112 M.P.H.

CATEGORY: Untrusted Neighbor
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: Hoboken
FRENCH PRESIDENT: Germany

CATEGORY: Explosions
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: Terrorist target but never hit
FRENCH PRESIDENT: Jet struck by lightning

CATEGORY: Annoying But Unavoidable Trait
UNDERGROUND TUNNEL: Rush hour traffic
FRENCH PRESIDENT: Socialist beliefs

WINNER: Le Tunnel de la Hollande

* * *

DAVID AXELROD vs. AXL ROSE

CATEGORY: Defining Feature
POLITICAL ADVISER: “Flavor saver” stache
ROCK SINGER: Bandanna

CATEGORY: Negativity
POLITICAL ADVISER: Anti-Romney attack ads
ROCK SINGER: “Slash is a cancer”

CATEGORY: Race Relations
POLITICAL ADVISER: Track record of helping black politicians get elected
ROCK SINGER: Racist rant in “One In a Million”

CATEGORY: Portent of Future Stardom
POLITICAL ADVISER: Sold campaign ads for R.F.K.
ROCK SINGER: Smoked cigarettes for UCLA study

CATEGORY: Daddy issues
POLITICAL ADVISER: Father committed suicide
ROCK SINGER: Alleged sexual abuse by dad

CATEGORY: Crowd Hostility
POLITICAL ADVISER: Booed by Romney Supporters in Boston
ROCK SINGER: Booed for skipping Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

CATEGORY: Emo Behavior
POLITICAL ADVISER: Cried in front of Obama
ROCK SINGER: Claimed “Don’t Cry” was about him crying

CATEGORY: Professional Shortcoming
POLITICAL ADVISER: John Edwards in ’04
ROCK SINGER: Chinese Democracy

WINNER: Axl Rose

* * *

PEYTON MANNING vs. PEYTON PLACE

CATEGORY: Bragging Rights
QUARTERBACK: Four-time MVP for Indianapolis Colts
NOVEL: First book ever banned in Rhode Island

CATEGORY: Family Drama
QUARTERBACK: Beating brother in “The Manning Bowl”
NOVEL: Selena kills her father

CATEGORY: Dark Secrets
QUARTERBACK: Pre-snap gesticulations
NOVEL: Affairs, illegitimate children, abortions

CATEGORY: School Scandal
QUARTERBACK: Jersey banned in Colorado school
NOVEL: Handsy high school principal

CATEGORY: Medical Drama
QUARTERBACK: 2011 neck surgery
NOVEL: Character loses arm in carnival ride

CATEGORY: Drinking
QUARTERBACK: Gatorade spokesman
NOVEL: Author died from alcoholism at age 39

CATEGORY: Sequels
QUARTERBACK: Andrew Luck
NOVEL: Return to Peyton Place

WINNER: Peyton Manning

* * *

APPLE’S SIRI vs. SURI CRUISE

CATEGORY: Public Debut
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: 2011 “Let’s Talk iPhone” event
CELEBRITY CHILD: 2006 Vanity Fair cover

CATEGORY: Costs
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Free with iPhone
CELEBRITY CHILD: $10 million in child support

CATEGORY: Relationship with Mom
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Identity of voice actress kept secret
CELEBRITY CHILD: Mom not allowed to speak during birth

CATEGORY: Odd Behavior
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Will answer dirty questions
CELEBRITY CHILD: Precocious heel-wearing

CATEGORY: Celebrity Endorsements
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Zooey Deschanel, John Malkovich
CELEBRITY CHILD: John Travolta, Will Smith

CATEGORY: Traffic Safety
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Not recommended for use while driving
CELEBRITY CHILD: Her limo was hit by a garbage truck

CATEGORY: Inevitable Nuisance
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Hackers
CELEBRITY CHILD: Scientology stalkers

CATEGORY: Name Origin
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: A Norwegian engineer’s former co-worker
CELEBRITY CHILD: An incorrect Persian/Hebrew mashup

CATEGORY: Probable Future
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Replaced by new and improved app
CELEBRITY CHILD: Rich, spoiled, and pissed off

WINNER: Siri

* * *

SOULJA BOY vs. RI SOL-JU

CATEGORY: Innovation
RAPPER: Self-released music on Internet
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Seen in public

CATEGORY: Social Media
RAPPER: Twitter, YouTube, MySpace
DICTATOR’S WIFE: North Korean state television

CATEGORY: Debut
RAPPER: “Crank That” single plays on Entourage
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Kim Jong Il’s funeral

CATEGORY: WMDs
RAPPER: Guns in briefcase
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Husband’s rockets don’t work

CATEGORY: Public Displays of Emotion
RAPPER: Cried during BET awards
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Kinda smiled during photo opp

CATEGORY: Not To Be Confused With
RAPPER: Souljah Boy, another rapper
DICTATOR’S WIFE: “Excellent Horse-Like Lady” singer

CATEGORY: Former Career
RAPPER: Worked at Burger King
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Cheerleader

CATEGORY: Baby Rumors
RAPPER: Yes, unconfirmed
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Yes, unconfirmed

CATEGORY: Head-scratching Fashion
RAPPER: Cardigan
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Polka-dots

CATEGORY: Positive Attitude
RAPPER: Ignore the haters
DICTATOR’S WIFE: Don’t get sent to gulag

WINNER: Mrs. Supreme Ruler

* * *

RYAN LOCHTE vs. LOCH NESS MONSTER

CATEGORY: Age
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: 28
LAKE MONSTER: Prehistoric

CATEGORY: Sociability
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Likes to party
LAKE MONSTER: Reclusive

CATEGORY: Ethnicity
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: German and Cuban
LAKE MONSTER: Plesiosaur

CATEGORY: Nickname
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: The Lochtenator
LAKE MONSTER: Nessie

CATEGORY: Aquatic Rival
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Michael Phelps
LAKE MONSTER: Ogopogo, the Canadian lake monster

CATEGORY: Embarrassing Moment
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: That “Call Me, Maybe” Web video
LAKE MONSTER: Confused for an otter in a photo

CATEGORY: Gaudy Factor
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Diamond-encrusted grill
LAKE MONSTER: Named for Busch Gardens roller coaster

CATEGORY: Relationship Status
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Prefers “one-night stands”
LAKE MONSTER: Rides alone

CATEGORY: Pees In Water?
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Yes, in Olympic pool
LAKE MONSTER: Probably, in Loch Ness

CATEGORY: Ugly Rumor
OLYMPIC SWIMMER: Parents are broke
LAKE MONSTER: Doesn’t exist

WINNER: The Loch Ness Monster

* * *

ANN ROMNEY vs. ANNE RAMSEY

CATEGORY: Personality
POLITICAL WIFE: Gruff, short tempered
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Gruff, short tempered

CATEGORY: Distinguishing Feature
POLITICAL WIFE: Designer fish shirts
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Hunched shoulders

CATEGORY: Children
POLITICAL WIFE: Five
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Dozens, all fictional

CATEGORY: True American
POLITICAL WIFE: Married a rich guy
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Descendant of Pilgrims

CATEGORY: Annoyed By
POLITICAL WIFE: “You people.”
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Goonies

CATEGORY: Mommy Wars
POLITICAL WIFE: Criticized for being stay-at-home mom
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Almost thrown from train by Danny DeVito

CATEGORY: Health Struggle
POLITICAL WIFE: Suffers from multiple sclerosis
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Appeared in Boy in the Plastic Bubble

CATEGORY: Personal Tragedy
POLITICAL WIFE: Dancing horse mocked in election ad
CHARACTER ACTRESS: Buried in unmarked grave

WINNER: Anne Ramsey

* * *

HOPE SOLO VS. HAN SOLO

CATEGORY: Defensive Strategy
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Shot stopper
SPACE SMUGGLER: Shot Greedo first

CATEGORY: Team Player?
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Absolutely
SPACE SMUGGLER: Plays by own rules

CATEGORY: Signature Salute
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Fist-bumping
SPACE SMUGGLER: “May the Force be with you.”

CATEGORY: Awards
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: 2008 Olympic gold medal
SPACE SMUGGLER: Alderaanian Medal of Freedom

CATEGORY: Fair-haired cohort
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Abby Wambach
SPACE SMUGGLER: Luke Skywalker

CATEGORY: Dark-haired cohort
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Has partied with Vince Vaughn
SPACE SMUGGLER: Has partied with Chewbacca

CATEGORY: Kidnappers
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Her ex-con father
SPACE SMUGGLER: Boba Fett

CATEGORY: Public Shaming
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Drunk on the Today Show
SPACE SMUGGLER: Can’t get Millennium Falcon to light speed

CATEGORY: Career-ending Close Call
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Failed Olympic drug test
SPACE SMUGGLER: Frozen in carbonite

CATEGORY: Employer With Reputation for Evil
THE OLYMPIC GOALIE: Bank of America
SPACE SMUGGLER: Jabba the Hutt

WINNER: Han Solo

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