A Process Hall of Fame Tribute To Burnergate
We will never see anything like this again.
Andrew Unterberger is a famous writer who invented the nickname 'Sauce Castillo' and is now writing for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
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I’ve argued this before, but the weirdest thing about Burnergate to me will always be how, at its core, it really wasn’t that weird.
I mean, the trappings of it were certainly unusual. It’s not every day that a major story concerning an investigation into a veteran NBA GM’s purported malfeasance is broken by the guy largely known for snarking about that GM on Twitter. It’s definitely not a regular thing that when the trail of such an investigation goes temporarily cold for the journalistic institution that launched it, the threads are then taken up by that team’s fanbase -- and essentially solved, within a day or two’s time, via social media deep-diving. And of course, it’ll never not be wild that the phrase “EnoughUnkownSources,” the censorship of the word “butt” and the simple integer “91” are now part of Sixers lore for all time.
But take away all that stuff, and boil down the story of Burnergate to what actually happened to put all this nonsense in motion, and what do you have? A guy who complained about his job at home, and a wife who wanted to defend her husband against haters on the Internet. There’s no real palace intrigue, no obvious conspiracies to speak of, and -- I suppose I can only speak for me here -- no lingering unanswerable questions that continue to pick at the back of my subconscious. Just two people doing something ill-advised for understandable reasons. Compared to Markelle Fultz forgetting how to shoot a basketball, this was a pretty easy write-off.
That’s the thing that Bryan Colangelo never seemed to understand. Sure, his days as GM of the Philadelphia 76ers (and probably of any other basketball team, ever) were over the minute Chris Ryan hit publish and messed up the Tuesday night of Sixers followers worldwide. But even though he and his wife were destined to end up some combination of schlemiel and schlimazel for their exposed chicanery, he was still on pretty OK ground, emotionally. Everyone understands complaining self-righteously about your co-workers at the end of an annoying work day. Everyone understands seeing anonymous, poorly informed Twitter hate and thinking to yourself Ooh But If I Could Only Just Tell Them What’s Really Going On. He had the sympathy of the Zach Lowes of his world. He didn’t have to be the bad guy.
When thinking of Burnergate, I often think back to Bryan Colangelo’s first reported response to the Ringer report: “Someone’s out to get me.” Largely because it’s hilarious to imagine him hissing it into his phone while decked out in a hoodie and sunglasses, paranoid that the barista that took his Starbucks order knows more than she’s letting on. But also because that seems to be the attitude that he carried with him well through the scandal’s conclusion, even once it was uncovered that the “someone” was the person he’s presumably closest with in the whole world. And so Colangelo publicly treated his wife like any other random conspirator obsessed with bringing him down -- loudly blaming her for everything, and going from a patsy to a true Enemy of the Process in the process. (Of course, perhaps that “someone” was actually the still-unkown Twitter physicist who tipped Ben Detrick off to the entire enterprise, to whom I say: Show yourself at the RTRS Live Podcast and induct Burnergate into the Hall of Fame, coward.)
Fact of the matter is, with some different spin, BC and 91 could’ve gone down as Process Heroes for Burnergate. OK, that’s probably a little too strong, but really, what were the actual end results of the scandal and all its associated shenanigans? Two things: Our front office was essentially turned into a xenon pit for a major free agency period, and the Colangelo strain was removed from the Sixers organization. Thing One was on its face a bad thing, but it also ruined any chance of the 76ers signing on for four years of being LeBron and the Processettes, and I believe it is the official, unanimous RTRS stance that this is ultimately a good thing. And Thing Two… I mean hell, without Burnergate, maybe Jerry’s still in Arizona running the team via Skype well into his 90s. Bryan (eventually, unintentionally) did the thing Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie decided he’d rather quit than figure out how to do -- he got Jerry Colangelo the fuck out of the paint.
Sadly, our former GM was too obsessed with the idea of the Process Illuminati plotting his ruination to ever consider the possibility that, hey, maybe just a couple dumb and unfortunate things happened with him and his life partner and now he was gonna have to go away for a while. Maybe now that he’s resurfaced on Twitter a year later -- presumably having completed the necessary physical therapy after messing up his back throwing 91 under the bus -- he’s had time to properly reflect on what really went wrong. Perhaps he’s come to the conclusion that it was his own arrogance and not his wife’s snitchery that led to his downfall. Perhaps he’s realized that his last public statement as an NBA figure being readable in a Borat voice was not the best move for his basketball legacy. Perhaps.
Whether or not our former GM has gained perspective on Burnergate, it’s certainly something
that Process Trusters can now look back on with a certain degree of fondness. It made for a messy summer, for sure, but not only did it rid us of the Colangelos -- though ownership is a different story, and a forever-slightly-concerning one -- it also confirmed Sixers Twitter as a force powerful enough to topple their entire administration, essentially avenging Hinkie’s deposing two years earlier. It’s absolutely a Process Hall of Famer, and when the Book of the Process gets written (several times over), it’ll be the chapter fans are most excited to skip to. And if Detrick’s own Deep Throat doesn’t feel like showing up to induct it, 91, you’re still always welcome.