Penn State and 'Setting the record straight'

July 17, 2012, 3:24 pm
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Today's lesson, students, is English translation. Today's phrase: "I Look Forward To Setting The Record Straight."This is common usage among those in positions of power who find their positions jeopardized by disclosure of an event or deed. It is being used most often these days by those in and around the child rape and cover-up scandals at Pennsylvania State University, most recently by former president Graham Spanier, who apparently needs more time to set the record straight on the Freeh Report.Now students, what can we take from this? The answer is clear. He needs time to concoct a series of implausible, indefensible, possibly dishonest and wholly nonsensical ways to defend his position in the 14-year cover-up of the crimes of serial rapist Jerry Sandusky.And why do we know this? Because the truth, if it can show that you have done nothing wrong, illegal, immoral or unethical, comes pre-assembled. You don't need an opportunity to clear your name. You take the opportunity. In this case, because people will drop what they're doing to hear your story.You see, the part of the phrase here that helps you decipher this, students, is "the opportunity." It implies that you cannot speak up until it is your turn, and if you are being accused wrongly of what Graham Spanier is being accused of, you don't wait your turn.RELATED: Ratto -- Focus on Penn State's administrators
This is also true of Jay Paterno, the son of the late head coach at Penn State, who also invoked the phrase last week in an interview with ESPN. And the same rules apply. The innocent get to cut the line if they can prove they or their loved ones did not do what they are being accused of by the rest of the nation.The guilty, on the other hand, wait for "the opportunity."RELATED: Ratto -- Paterno put 'the brand' ahead of human decency
Now let us move on to the next part of the phrase "the opportunity." What does that mean, exactly?Sometimes it happens via a stage-managed interview. Sometimes it happens in a courtroom. Typically, it is perceived by the person accused of being a safer time to give an explanation, and the delay allows time to prepare an explanation that is at least slightly less damning than the one already in public.For Jay Paterno, this might be more understandable, since the crimes and behaviors are not actually his to explain. He is defending his late father, which makes it all the more difficult.RELATED: Ratto -- Enough about Paterno's statue
But Spanier, who posed as the great moral arbiter of ethical behavior among college athletics when he was a power in the NCAA, has less reason to need a delay. And why is that, students?Exactly. Because he was there for every cover-up meeting. And if he can claim he wasn't, then that brings us to another question, which would be what?Precisely. "Well, where the hell were you then?"But the point here, and the one we will want a thousand words on by the end of the week, is the concept of "the opportunity to set the record straight." In your essays, please cover the following bullet points: Why "the opportunity" never comes with a specific date. Why "the opportunity" is something to be "looked forward to," rather than seized.
Why the longer it takes for "the opportunity" to be seized erodes the believability of the new altered record. Why the truth can be stated at any time, while "the opportunity" to tell the truth needs time to develop.Have your essays turned in by Friday, and remember, midterms are coming up, so re-read the sections on how a conspiracy works, institutional cowardice, and especially the sidebar, "Guilt born of arrogance so obvious it could fell a moose." Class dismissed.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

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