Dottie Pepper leaves NBC Sports after 8 years


Dottie Pepper leaves NBC Sports after 8 years

Dottie Pepper learned the art of retirement at an early age.

In a practice round during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, she wound up behind someone Pepper would describe as an aging veteran who had no business being out there. Pepper turned to her sister, who caddied for her that summer, and told her, ``Don't ever let me get to that point.''

Two years after her first shoulder surgery, when those blue eyes didn't blaze with quite as much intensity and Pepper began to realize there was more to life than chasing around a little white golf ball, she announced her retirement at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open when she was 38.

Her retirement Sunday after eight years with NBC Sports was not much different.

``I would have to say this is similar to when Barry Sanders retired because she's going out on top of her game,'' said Tommy Roy, NBC's executive producer of golf who gave Pepper a chance, coached and critiqued her, and was sorry to see her go. ``Her work this year on the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup was impeccable. You could take her work and make a `how-to' tape for future broadcasters.''

Her last day at work was Sunday at the Father-Son Challenge in Orlando, Fla., the end of a ride that Pepper, 47, could not have imagined.

It was former NBC staffer John Goldstein who persuaded Roy to give her a shot at the `04 Women's Open, and Pepper took it from there. She started work in 2005 during the Florida swing on the PGA Tour, and then got her big break at her first U.S. Open that summer. She was assigned the next-to-last group, and walked the final round at Pinehurst No. 2 with the champion, Michael Campbell.

``You can't dream up an assignment like that,'' Pepper said. ``My very first Open and I walk in the winner.''

Just like her retirement from playing, however, Pepper caught herself pulled in another direction.

She was tired of the travel, for one thing, and she found her passion shifting to junior golf. The PGA of America called on her again, and this time, Pepper listened. She decided at the Ryder Cup to leave her role as the most prominent female golf analyst and join the PGA of America's board of directors, where she can work on developing junior golf programs.

Roy was effusive with praise.

``The great thing about Dottie is not many players could come over from the LPGA and analyze in a critical way how the PGA Tour players and still be respected by those players,'' he said. ``She garnered so much respect from the players. She came over and fit right in.''

That's all Pepper really wanted.

Roy said he would like to have another LPGA Tour player work the U.S. Women's Open next summer on Long Island, though it is not imperative for the NBC team to find another woman to fill Pepper's role. It was never about gender, and Pepper never saw it that way.

``It's been the greatest thing because I was treated as a reporter and an analyst, not because I was a woman,'' she said. ``I was expected to toe the line. No matter how bad the weather was, how tough the walk was, I was to do everything the guys did. And that's how I wanted it.''

She was never lacking in intensity and honesty, sometimes to a fault. She once was criticized for shouting, ``Yes!'' when her opponent missed a putt in the Solheim Cup. Roy laughed when recalling her early years with NBC. ``Everyone on the NBC golf team was scared to death of her from when she was a player,'' he said.

That intensity, however, led to her lowest moment in broadcasting.

Pepper was working the Solheim Cup for Golf Channel in 2007 when the Americans kept missing one pivotal putt after another. They had gone to a commercial break, but someone forgot to hit the switch. Thinking they were off the air, Pepper said, ``Choking, freakin' dogs!''

Only they weren't off the air, and her commentary got back to the Americans. Pepper didn't remember saying it and she didn't even find out about it until six hours later, when the telecast was over and a producer closed the door behind him and said, ``We've got a problem.''

``An enormously sick feeling,'' Pepper said. ``The thing that still stings about that is that there were people at Golf Channel who had already packed my bags. They had issued my resignation. And (senior programming director) Don McGuire said, `No, that won't be the case. That was our fault.' I'll always be appreciative of him for that.''

Her sin wasn't being honest, rather it was being a cheerleader.

``That's what hurt the most,'' she said. ``I was bleeding with them, and as a broadcaster, you can't do that. You call your sport.''

Pepper wasn't sure she would recover from that, and there are still a few American players who won't speak to her. Once a shoo-in as a Solheim Cup captain, Pepper quickly became an afterthought except in the booth. That changed this year when Meg Mallon chose Pepper as one of her assistant captains for the 2013 matches in Colorado.

Will she be a captain someday?

``Only if I'm wanted,'' she said. ``People have to want you to be a captain.''

But she says her decision to leave broadcasting was in no way related to her future in the Solheim Cup.

It was simply time to move on to something else, which in this case is developing young American players at an early age. She has created a mascot called ``Bogey,'' a big range ball who is tired of his dead-end job and wants to be a player. Pepper is bringing ``Bogey'' to the PGA show next month. She describes him as ``a bridge so that golf isn't so scary to kids.''

Pepper has no idea how long her stint with the PGA of America will last, but odds are she'll get out when she's ready and not a moment too late.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!


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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.


Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."


Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."