BARBARA WALTERS vs. WALTER WHITE

CATEGORY: Nickname
THE TV PERSONALITY: Baba Wawa
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Heisenberg

walter-white

CATEGORY: Special skills
THE TV PERSONALITY: Making celebrities cry
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Making “blue” meth

CATEGORY: Rap Sheet
THE TV PERSONALITY: Interviewed every U.S. president since Nixon
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Assassinated drug kingpin Gus

CATEGORY: Firsts
THE TV PERSONALITY: Female news co-anchor on major network
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: High school teacher to retire wealthy

CATEGORY: Fashion Statement
THE TV PERSONALITY: Coiffed bob
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Tighty-whities

CATEGORY: Outspoken Sidekick
THE TV PERSONALITY: Elisabeth Hasselbeck
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Jesse Pinkman

CATEGORY: Retirement
THE TV PERSONALITY: Planned for 2014
THE FICTIONAL DRUG DEALER: Repeatedly claimed

WINNER: Barbara Walters

J.R. SMITH vs. J.R. EWING

CATEGORY: Career Defining Question
THE KNICKS PLAYER: “You trying to get the pipe?”
THE OIL BARON: “Who shot J.R.?”

CATEGORY: Fashion Staple
THE KNICKS PLAYER: Nike Zoom Kobe VI shoes
THE OIL BARON: Stetson hat

CATEGORY: Weaknesses
THE KNICKS PLAYER: Pre-game clubbing
THE OIL BARON: Rivalry with brother Bobby

CATEGORY: Recreation
THE KNICKS PLAYER: Times Square bike rides at midnight
THE OIL BARON: Getting divorced

CATEGORY: Famous Shots
THE KNICKS PLAYER: Clutch three-pointer against Oklahoma City
THE OIL BARON: Gunned down by sister-in-law

CATEGORY: Famous Fans
THE KNICKS PLAYER: Woody Allen
THE OIL BARON: Queen Elizabeth

CATEGORY: Accolades
THE KNICKS PLAYER: N.B.A.’s Sixth Man Award
THE OIL BARON: TV Guide‘s #1 Nastiest Villain

WINNER: J.R. Smith

Q-TIP VS. Q-TIPS

CATEGORY: Previous Moniker
THE RAPPER: MC Love Child
THE COTTON SWABS: Baby Gays

CATEGORY: Q Stands For…
THE RAPPER: Queens
THE COTTON SWABS: Quality

CATEGORY: Celebrity Feuds
THE RAPPER: Michael Rapaport
THE COTTON SWABS: Lena Dunham’s ear

CATEGORY: Religion
THE RAPPER: Islam
THE COTTON SWABS: Inventor was Jewish

CATEGORY: Movie Appearances
THE RAPPER: “Prison Song”
THE COTTON SWABS: Crowd scene in “Phantom Menace”

CATEGORY: Constant Rumors
THE RAPPER: Tribe Called Quest reunion
THE COTTON SWABS: Will destroy your ear canal

WINNER: Q-Tips

WHITEY FORD VS. WHITEY BULGER

CATEGORY: Organization
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: New York Yankees
THE MOB BOSS: White Hill Gang

CATEGORY: Stats
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: 10 World Series victories
THE MOB BOSS: Accused of 19 murders

CATEGORY: Cheating
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: Used “mudballs”
THE MOB BOSS: Friends at F.B.I.

CATEGORY: Vacation Time
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: Fort Lauderdale
THE MOB BOSS: Alcatraz

CATEGORY: Movie Portrayals
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: Anthony Michael Hall
THE MOB BOSS: Jack Nicholson

CATEGORY: Amazing Accomplishment
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: Struck out Willie Mays
THE MOB BOSS: Won the lottery

CATEGORY: Retirement
THE BASEBALL PITCHER: Failed restauranteur
THE MOB BOSS: Probably prison

WINNER: Whitey Ford

ELIOT SPITZER VS. T.S. ELIOT

CATEGORY: Nickname
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: “The Sheriff of Wall Street”
THE POET: “Old Possum”

CATEGORY: Famous Affiliation
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: The Emperor’s Club V.I.P.
THE POET: The Modernist Movement

CATEGORY: Controversial Muse
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Prostitute “Kristen”
THE POET: First wife Vivien

CATEGORY: Contemporary
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Anthony Weiner
THE POET: James Joyce

CATEGORY: Personal Style
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Starched shirts
THE POET: Stream of consciousness writing

CATEGORY: Bitter Rival
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Kenneth Langone
THE POET: C.S. Lewis

CATEGORY: Embarrassing Homage
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Porn parody “Eliot Splitz Her”
THE POET: Broadway musical “Cats”

CATEGORY: Alter ego
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Client No. 9
THE POET: Prufrock

CATEGORY: Quotables
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: “I am a fucking steamroller”
THE POET: “Let’s not be narrow, nasty, and negative.”

CATEGORY: Future plans
THE FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Running for NYC comptroller
THE POET: Selling cheese for U.S. Department of Agriculture

WINNER: T.S. Eliot

PAULA DEEN VS. PAULY D

CATEGORY: Famous Catchphrase
THE SOUTHERN COOK: “Oops, it fell in the butter!”
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: “Cabs are heeeeere!”

CATEGORY: Accused of Racism
THE SOUTHERN COOK: By former employee
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: By UNICO National

CATEGORY: Grease Addiction
THE SOUTHERN COOK: Lard-heavy recipes
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: Metric ton of hair gel

CATEGORY: Horrible Decision
THE SOUTHERN COOK: Thinking plantation waiter slaves wouldn’t be offensive
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: Doing anything in a “smoosh” room

CATEGORY: Risky Health Choices
THE SOUTHERN COOK: Krispy Kreme bread pudding
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: Lap dance from Britney Spears

CATEGORY: Weeping
THE SOUTHERN COOK: On Today Show
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: On hearing that Jersey Shore was cancelled

CATEGORY: Depressing second act
THE SOUTHERN COOK: Dropped by publisher, Food Network, Wal-Mart, etc
THE JERSEY SHORE GUIDO: DJ career

WINNER: Draw

THE SUPREME COURT vs. THE SUPREMES

CATEGORY: Origins
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Judiciary Act of 1789
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Detroit housing project

CATEGORY: Appointed By
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Sitting U.S. president
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Berry Gordy

CATEGORY: Tenure
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: For life
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Until fired or replaced

CATEGORY: Babies or Abortions?
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Roe v. Wade
THE MOTOWN GROUP: “Baby Love”

CATEGORY: Breakout Star
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Earl Warren
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Diana Ross

CATEGORY: Attire
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Bentley and Simon robes
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Bouffants

CATEGORY: Classic Hand Choreography
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Conference handshake
THE MOTOWN GROUP: “Stop! In the Name of Love” dance

CATEGORY: Love and Marriage
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: Extends benefits to same-sex couples
THE MOTOWN GROUP: 19 songs with “love” in the title

CATEGORY: Fictionalization
THE U.S. HIGH COURT: The People vs. Larry Flynt
THE MOTOWN GROUP: Dreamgirls

WINNER: The Supremes

KINKY BOOTS vs. KINKO’S

CATEGORY: Premise
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Straight/ gay bromance
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Cheap copies and printing

CATEGORY: Challenges
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Dancing in stilettos
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Surviving in digital age

CATEGORY: Cost
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: $77 (mezzanine) to $157 (orchestra)
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Copies run 9¢ (black and white) to 49¢ (color)

CATEGORY: Name Origins
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Drag queen footwear
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Founder’s frizzy hair

CATEGORY: Pop Star Collaborations
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Score by Cyndi Lauper
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Once employed Frank Ocean

CATEGORY: Controversy
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Keith Richards goes backstage, refuses boots
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Won’t print anti-abortion fliers

CATEGORY: Windfall
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: Scored six Tonys
THE PRINTING CHAIN: Bought by FedEx for $2.4 billion

WINNER: Kinky Boots

BUZZ ALDRIN vs. BUZZFEED

CATEGORY: Claim to Fame
THE ASTRONAUT: Second man on the Moon
THE WEBSITE: Listicles, puppy GIFs

CATEGORY: Competition
THE ASTRONAUT: Neil Armstrong
THE WEBSITE: Rest of Internet

CATEGORY: Bad Behavior
THE ASTRONAUT: Punched conspiracy theorist
THE WEBSITE: Plagiarizing from Reddit

CATEGORY: Integrity
THE ASTRONAUT: Legally changed name to Buzz
THE WEBSITE: No banner ads

CATEGORY: Religious Conviction
THE ASTRONAUT: Gave himself Communion on the Moon
THE WEBSITE: “10 Religion Fails” list

CATEGORY: Weird Trivia
THE ASTRONAUT: Mom’s maiden name was “Moon”
THE WEBSITE: Has a “Foreign Editor”

CATEGORY: Surprising Collaborations
THE ASTRONAUT: Tina Fey
THE WEBSITE: CNN

CATEGORY: Sequel
THE ASTRONAUT: Buzz Lightyear
THE WEBSITE: “Troll the NSA” website

WINNER: Buzz Aldrin

KANYE WEST vs. WEST SIDE STORY

CATEGORY: Sworn Enemy
THE RAPPER: Gold diggers
THE MUSICAL: Rival gangs

CATEGORY: Creative Inspiration
THE RAPPER: Nietzsche
THE MUSICAL: Shakespeare

CATEGORY: Unconvincing Menace
THE RAPPER: Tweeting in ALL CAPS
THE MUSICAL: Coordinated finger-snapping

CATEGORY: Women Denied
THE RAPPER: Taylor Swift, her MTV Video Award
THE MUSICAL: Maria, her true love

CATEGORY: Brought Back Into Fashion
THE RAPPER: Bow ties
THE MUSICAL: Leather jackets

CATEGORY: Hated Authority Figure
THE RAPPER: George Bush
THE MUSICAL: Officer Krupke

CATEGORY: Boastful Lyrics
THE RAPPER: “I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go”
THE MUSICAL: “We’ll be the sweetest dressin’ gang in pants”

WINNER: West Side Story

RAFAEL NADAL vs. RALPH NADER

CATEGORY: Specialty
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Clay
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Nonprofits

CATEGORY: Political Affiliation
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Bacardi’s Social Responsibility Ambassador
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Four-time Green Party candidate

CATEGORY: Famous Upsets
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Lost to Lukas Rosol at 2012 Wimbledon
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Lost 2000 election for Al Gore

CATEGORY: Arch Nemesis
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Protestors with flares
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Detroit auto makers

CATEGORY: Medical History
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Weak knees
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Bells Palsy

CATEGORY: Interviewed By
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: John McEnroe
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

CATEGORY: Languages Spoken
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Three
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Seven

CATEGORY: Stance on Aliens
THE TENNIS SUPERSTAR: Beat extraterrestrial at tennis in car commercial
THE ACTIVIST/ POLITICIAN: Strengthen U.S.-Mexico border

WINNER:
Rafael Nadal

ERIC HOLDER vs. HOLDEN CAULFIELD

CATEGORY: No Fan Of
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Journalists
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Phonies

CATEGORY: Uniqueness
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: First African-American A.G.
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: 6’2″ teen

CATEGORY: Favorite Vice
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Being in contempt of Congress
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Mild swearing

CATEGORY: Not Long For
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Justice Department
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Pencey Prep

CATEGORY: Grey Hair?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Yes

CATEGORY: Controversial Willingness To Use
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Drones
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Prostitutes

CATEGORY: Curious About
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: James Rosen’s e-mails
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Where the ducks go in winter

CATEGORY: Bad Influence
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mexican drug cartels
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: Mark Chapman

CATEGORY: Losing Favor With
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Voters
THE J.D. SALINGER CHARACTER: 21st century teenagers

WINNER: Holden Caulfield

MACKLEMORE vs. MARK McLEMORE

CATEGORY: Claim to Fame
THE RAPPER: YouTube hit “Thrift Shop”
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Utility player known as “Supersub”

CATEGORY: Uniform
THE RAPPER: Fur coats, raccoon hats, footie pajamas
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Standard MLB issue

CATEGORY: Employer
THE RAPPER: No major label
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Seven teams in 16 years

CATEGORY: Fan Appreciation
THE RAPPER: Hosts annual pizza party for fans
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Once gave free tickets to a fan with cancer

CATEGORY: Personal Life
THE RAPPER: Recovering alcoholic
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Collects bottle caps and pogs

CATEGORY: Embarrassing Injury
THE RAPPER: Fractured tailbone at frat party
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Missed games for pulled groin

CATEGORY: Played in Seattle?
THE RAPPER: Yes
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Yes

CATEGORY: Switch Hitter?
THE RAPPER: No
THE RETIRED BALLPLAYER: Yes

WINNER: Macklemore

CITI BIKES vs. “SIN CITY”

CATEGORY: Cost
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: $95 for annual membership
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: $1.99 on Amazon

CATEGORY: Problems
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: Docks can be confusing
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE:  Cops, government, criminals all corrupt

CATEGORY: Crime Wave
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: Bike stolen on first day
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: Murder, torture, etc

CATEGORY: Punishment for stealing
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: Up to $1000 fine
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: Murder, torture, etc

CATEGORY: Fears
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: 6,000 new bikes on already gridlocked streets
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: Cannibal serial killers

CATEGORY: Colors
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: Gaudy blue
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: Noir black & white

CATEGORY: Neglected Borough
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: The Bronx
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: Old Town (run by prostitutes)

CATEGORY: Mayoral Support
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: Bloomberg’s idea
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: No jail for mayor’s pedophile son

CATEGORY: Body Count
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: 0
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: 41

CATEGORY: Tagline
THE BIKE-SHARING PROGRAM: “The bikes are coming very soon. Seriously.”
THE ROBERT RODRIGUEZ MOVIE: “There is no justice without sin.”

WINNER: “Sin City”

RON JOHNSON vs. L. RON HUBBARD

CATEGORY: Former Empire
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: J.C. Penny
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Church of Scientology

CATEGORY: Reason For Leaving
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: Fired
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Died

CATEGORY: Formal Education
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: M.B.A. from Harvard
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: College dropout

CATEGORY: Seminal Work
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: The Genius Bar
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Dianetics

CATEGORY: No Fan Of …
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.:  … coupons
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER:…. psychiatric care

CATEGORY: Divine Creator
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: Steve Jobs
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Xenu

CATEGORY: Customer Support
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: No more mommy jeans or fat clothes
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Auditing

CATEGORY: Luxury Commuting
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: Private jet
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Sea Org fleet

CATEGORY: Divisive Public Advocate
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: Martha Stewart
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Tom Cruise

CATEGORY: Philosophy In a Nutshell
THE DISGRACED FORMER C.E.O.: There are believers and skeptics
THE AUTHOR/ CHURCH LEADER: Alien souls live inside us

WINNER: L. Ron Hubbard

(These stories originally appeared, in slightly different forms, in various issues of the New York Times Magazine between May and August 2013.)