FORGET AVALANCHE; IT’S WINGS-STARS NOW

Forget Colorado. Forget Philly. Forget Washington or St. Louis. Detroit’s best rivalry — and maybe the best in the NHL these days — is Red Wings-Stars.

Why? All great rivalries need several things. Hatred, yes. But that’s not enough. Otherwise, it still would be Wings-Avalanche — at least as long as Claude Lemieux plays there. No, great rivalries need teams capable of winning championships, and the Stars and Wings qualify. And great rivalries need hunger. One team has to desperately want what the other has. The Wings have two Stanley Cups. The Stars are salivating.

Speaking of the Stars, I’m not surprised to hear Brett Hull is unhappy with his minutes. He’s always been moody, ever since childhood, when he went by the name Boris Becker.

This week the Tigers spent the kind of money they’ve been trying to save for years. They signed Dean Palmer, a third baseman, to a five-year, $36-million contract, every penny guaranteed — which means if the guy gets hurt or goes bust, he gets paid anyhow. All for a one-season All-Star who doesn’t play great defense at a position where defense is key, and who, despite great numbers last year, is a career .253 hitter averaging 25 homers a year.

And based on that, Randy Smith says, “This shows we’re back in the ballgame.”

I don’t know. I think it shows the Tigers will spend $36 million. When Palmer throws a shutout every four nights, maybe they’ll be back in the ballgame.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t New York Mets try the Bobby Bonilla experience once — and hate it?

Well, we now know NBA players don’t need basketball to make funny commercials.

Maybe I read too many papers, but it seems like the NBA headlines these days are always one of the following:

BARGAINING TALKS STALL

OWNERS REJECT PROPOSAL

PLAYERS REJECT PROPOSAL

BARGAINING TALKS STALL

Just once, I’d like to see one of these headlines:

OWNERS ADMIT: “WE’RE RICH!”

PLAYERS: “ARE WE NUTS?”

NIKE POLICY: NO SHOE OVER $35

It’s not for me to advise Michael Jordan, but given his past, isn’t he hanging around Las Vegas a little much these days?

One more NBA item: After all those years in Utah, Karl Malone is demanding a trade. This week, he said: “It’s time for Karl to move on.” And once again I am forced to ask …why is he talking in the third person? Did he suddenly leave the room?

Mitch wants to know.

When I read where L. Brooks Patterson is yapping about Oakland County getting a casino to keep up with Detroit, I think back to all those sincere politicians swearing that gaming won’t spread, it’s just a one-shot deal.

Yeah. And I’m Edith Piaf.

All the fuss over Keith Olbermann going to Fox Sports Net — What will ESPN do? How will “SportsCenter” react? — leads me to this dumb question: When did we elevate the simple task of talking over sports footage into some kind of art form?

I mean, is this stuff worth $1 million a year? I remember when Bernie Smilovitz saying “We’ve got highlights” was considered flashy.

Now you can’t watch sports footage without some guy doing his Sound Effects 101 class. “Back-back-back-back-back!” “Deeeeeeeep!” “BUTTAH, BABY!”

Do any of them actually know how to report a story? Or has Who, What, Where, When and Why been replaced by Whoo, Wow, Whee, Whoops and Whoa, Baby!?

So Kerry Collins turns his back on one team, gets traded, drives drunk, gets arrested, and this is his punishment: He’s starting at quarterback for the Saints on Sunday.

Hey, Mike Ditka. Way to send a message.

Lions. Bears. Sunday.

I can’t think of anything else on that one.

Speaking of those nasty NBA talks, they sure have taken a toll on commissioner David Stern. Look how much he has aged in the few years since he toured the country playing piano, under his stage name, Marvin Hamlisch.

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581 or E-mail albom@freepress.com. Mitch will sign copies of “Tuesdays With Morrie” from noon-1 p.m. Nov. 27 at Barnes & Noble in Bloomfield Hills and from 1-2 p.m. Nov. 28 at Borders in Novi.

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