New York is a great place. Stop laughing. I'm serious.

Think about all the quality entertainment the city provides the rest of the country free of charge.

Where would we be without A-Rod and Cousin Yuri? Or Plaxico Burress and his Glock? Or, back when they were both with the Knicks, Stephon Marbury and Isiah Thomas? Above all, where would we be without the New York Mets?

Bored stiff. That's where.

Say what you will, but Gotham consistently produces soap operas for the world to enjoy. Without New York's serial buffoonery to amuse us, we'd be forced to do something unthinkable. Like watch the news. Or read.

The latest in a long line of off-Broadway sideshows comes courtesy of the New York Rangers. (I love hockey, don't you?) Yesterday, they claimed wannabe bad boy Sean Avery off reentry waivers.

You may remember that ex-Ranger Avery was banished from the Dallas Stars a few months back after he said something crude about his ex-girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert. They don't go for that kind of thing down in Dallas (unless you play for the Cowboys). So the Stars put their feisty left wing in a permanent penalty box and waited until someone desperate came along to spring him.

On behalf of sports fans everywhere, I'd like to thank the Rangers for rescuing Avery and giving him a job back in a city where the media coverage is sure to amplify - and probably enable - his boorishness. Between Avery's big mouth and his penchant for penalty minutes, he'll be dominating national headlines in no time. That's good for the NHL, which can always use the attention, and even better for those of us who dig a good original dramedy.

Not everyone is excited about Avery's return, though. Not everyone thinks he should be given a second chance. After Avery disparaged sweet Ms. Cuthbert a few months back, some analyst for TSN got all hot under his hockey sweater.

"Enough is enough," the analyst said. "He's embarrassed himself. He's embarrassed the [Dallas] organization. He's embarrassed the league, and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn't belong in the league."

That's really no big deal. The analyst doesn't even work for TSN anymore. He left to take another gig. So how much trouble could he possibly give Avery?

According to the ever-omniscient Google, the Avery-hater's name is John Tortorella, and he now works for - the New York Rangers. As the head coach.

This is going to be even better than we thought.

The whole Twitter thing has gotten completely out of control. If you know people who Twitter (or does one "Tweet?"), you should talk to them before it's too late.

At first it was innovative - even mildly entertaining. Now, everything has become so warped, it's hard to tell what's real. It's like a never-ending assortment of digital funhouse mirrors.

Some of the Twitter streams are clearly fake and funny. My personal favorites are the phony Philip Rivers ("Still no football. I blame Norv.") and the counterfeit Rick Reilly ("How about that amazing Indian dancing at the Oscars? Most complicated set of hand movements I've seen outside of a Jim Abbott curveball!)

But Shaquille O'Neal - who Tweets (Twits?) under the name "The Real Shaq" - posts things that are equally absurd and hard to believe. Last week, he alerted fans to this "Random Act of Shaqness:" "I'm at the fashion sq mall, any1 touches me gets 2 tickets, tag me, and say yur twit u hv 20 min."

Gary Payton - who naturally goes by "The Real Gary Payton" - writes nonsense that's every bit as ridiculous as Shaq's stuff. When he isn't making fun of the Mavericks for losing to "Choklahoma City," he's giving out betting advice. "Griz in LA tonight. Lets lay a dime bet. LAL -15 1/2. Followers tell me where 2 lay it. SHOW ME THA MONEY."

Seriously? Shaq hands out free tickets at the mall, and Payton still quotes lines from Jerry Maguire?

Meanwhile, Charles Barkley's Twitter stream recently disclosed that Han Solo is in his Fave 5 and that he was looking to consume a "triple stack of pancakes with garlic butter on top and bacon and melted cheese in between."

That one has to be bogus. Probably.

Fuel, meet fire. Yesterday, in a taped interview with Jody McDonald and Harry Mayes on ESPN-AM (950), Brian Dawkins said his contract negotiations with the Birds were a limited process. "What I was offered [by the Eagles] - that was it," Dawkins said. "No one gave me any impression that there would be any flexibility in it." Dawkins added that it was "a business deal" for the organization, but not for him. "This is something that really hurt me," he said. "It really hurt me pretty deep." You can hear the entire Dawkins interview this morning on ESPN-AM at 10 a.m. . . . The California Kid, Cole Hamels, makes his first appearance of the spring today against Team Canada. Tough matchup for our northern neighbors. . . . Love The Haney Project on the Golf Channel. Watching Charles Barkley swing a club makes me feel better about myself, and I don't even golf. . . . The current Vegas odds give only five NBA teams better than a 10 percent shot to win the title this season. Surprisingly, the 76ers aren't one of them.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.