Sports journalism is a difficult path but worth it if you have passion. Thank you Jeff Moeller for inviting me to speak with your Sports PR class at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism for the second time. The opportunity to share experiences (the good, bad, ugly and hilarious) with students is so much fun for me and hopefully helpful for them. This group in particular did a great job with the mock interview exercise. Thanks for having me and good luck in the future!

So much of the news we consume on a daily basis is negative.  Scandal sells and dating back to ancient times, humans possess perhaps an intrinsic craving for drama.  Instead of rehashing yet another depressing current event (although I reserve the right to do just that at a later time…duh!), let’s get the weekend started on a positive note.  

This uplifting tale comes to us care of a childhood friend of mine who has asked to remain anonymous.  

She has been a server at the popular up-all-night diner in the Los Angeles area for several years.  She uploaded the photo and written post below to her Facebook page.  It is re-posted here with her permission.  Enjoy.

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A story I’d like to share with everyone in honor of a customer who touched my heart…..
Last night I worked the late late shift, meaning I don’t get out until past 3am. At around 1am I always start to lose my patience. Everyone is demanding. Many are drunk. It can be hard to keep our spirits up. Last night right around that same time, an average looking woman sporting a baseball cap and jeans comes in and sits at the counter. She’s chatting up the staff, looking around the restaurant a lot. I make a mental note that she seems a bit weird, like a lot of lonely people who come in to chat with wait staff are. But I keep going about my business. Toward the end of her meal I notice her counting every single person in the restaurant. She silently mouths “One, two, three” while keeping track with her pointer finger. Just another odd ball I think. I wish I could go home already. This night is never going to end. Mid-way through taking an order, my co-worker stands in the middle of the restaurant and says “Excuse me everybody. Can I have your attention for a moment?” She points to the woman at the counter and has a warm smile on her face. “This amazing woman has purchased a cupcake for everyone in this restaurant. She is fucking awesome and I wanted everyone to know that.” My co-worker begins to clap, and the restaurant erupts in applause. I’m applauding too. The woman’s kindness melts away my annoyance, my fatigue, my frustration at working these awful hours. It is such a bright spot in a night that has otherwise been a disaster. I begin putting cupcakes on plates, 30 total, asking each customer to come up and pick one. They look like little kids at a birthday party trying to scope out the best slice of cake. I look for the woman who purchased all these cupcakes for complete strangers, only to discover she has already left. My co-worker comes up to me as I’m looking for extra plates. There are tears in her eyes. “That woman wanted to buy everyone cupcakes because she is dying of cancer.” I stop for a moment, take a breath. The problem with waitressing is that I never quite know who I’m waiting on, even when I think I’ve got the person pegged. The teenagers who I think are going to leave me a nickel end up tipping ten dollars. The man who looks untrustworthy gives me a smile at the end of the night that lets me know he is okay. The woman who won’t stop talking at the counter, making a careful tally of every customer in the restaurant. She wants to buy everyone a cupcake before she goes. So here is to this woman, to her life, to her small act of kindness in the form of 30 cupcakes. She gave me a night at work I will never forget.

It was a pleasure being featured as a guest speaker at the monthly “Let’s Talk Sports” dinner held by the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Brandeis Alumni Association. The guys are smart, interesting, funny and feisty and it was really fun talking sports with them for two hours over dinner. Thank you guys for inviting me to share this activity with you.

Please help me provide the experience of a lifetime for kids who can’t afford it. Please click this link to my Facebook page to see how you can make a difference: http://on.fb.me/ZPmzMt

What does your Saturday night look like? Of course, it would come down to the #giants and #dodgers.

If you live in Southern California, you should strongly consider participating in the upcoming Adult Color Wars weekend in Malibu.  Remember when we were kids?  Playing outside with friends, laughing, being goofy and carefree? Adult Color Wars is a unique event that lets us grown ups feel like kids again.  If you are into making new friends and friendly competition, this event is for you! 

Aside from having a great time, one of the best aspects of this event is that some of the proceeds will go to a scholarship fund that helps kids and teens to afford sleep-away camp, which, from personal experience, is priceless.  

For more information, click here for the official website. 

Atlanta Falcons receiver Devin Hester brings us an instant classic TD celebration. Watch him secure an unknowing arena security guard with a bear hug. Hooray for happiness in sports!

       Going Roggin Appearance, KNBC-TV Los Angeles 9-16-14

In this episode of Going Roggin, A Martinez and I debate the hottest sports topics of the week, refereed by legendary L.A. sports anchor Fred Roggin.

In light of the scandals sweeping the NFL, we each proclaim our “sleaziest person in sports.”  We also discuss the expectations and playoff chances of the Dodgers and Angels, plus the prospect of professional sports leagues taking a cut of legalized sports betting.  

Last but not least, it’s everyone’s favorite segment, “Rapid Fire.”

Going Roggin airs on KNBC Ch.4 in the L.A. area every Saturday (3pm PST) and Monday morning (12am PST).  You can catch the live stream of the Sunday night/Monday morning edition of the show by clicking here.  As always, thanks for watching! 

It’s that time again folks! 3pm PST … Going Roggin on @KNBC ch4 in LA. Watch me debate hottest topics in sports with A Martinez, and of as always, referred by Fred Roggin. We’re talking NFL and the worst sports sleaze bags, plus Dodgers, Angels, UCLA and more. Set your DVR and don’t forget about the encore presentation at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning. Thanks for watching, as always!!

I met Stanley for the first time. He is beautiful. Thank you @lakings.

                        Ray Rice and the Park Ave Piranhas

What a mess.  What an utter disaster.  What if the governing body and its headmaster are so deeply entrenched in filth that they can no longer be trusted to thoroughly clean it up?  

This is the curious case of the NFL and its handling (or lack thereof) of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal.  Yes, this reached “scandal” or “-gate” proportions.  

ESPN host Keith Olbermann delivered a stirring monologue (click the above video to watch) just hours after TMZ Sports released surveillance video footage showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice engaged in a physical altercation with this then-fiancé Janay Palmer in which he punches Palmer in the face, knocking her out cold. 

The hot water NFL commissioner Roger Goodell found himself in after only suspending Rice for two games upon his arrest (and TMZ Sports’ first release of video footage, a clip that did not include the punch) can now be considered lukewarm.  That water has quickly turned to s*** and it just hit the fan, boiling over into the league office on Park Avenue.  

Facing a tsunami wave of backlash with the release of the new video, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him “indefinitely.” 

In his monologue, Olbermann suggests Goodell (amongst several other executives) resign in light of failing to appropriately punish Rice, all the while knowing what was on that video tape (after all, Rice admitted to punching Palmer, rendering her unconscious).  

Both the Ravens and the NFL said Monday was the first time they had seen the video of the punch itself.  Now the questions become, “what did they know” and “when did they know it.”  

According to a small handful of reporters, sources had seen the piece of video containing the knockout punch long before Monday.  

Despite being “anonymous,” it’s hard not to give the sources the benefit of the doubt here, especially given the NFL’s horrendous track record of poor decisions, lies and cover-ups.  

The NFL has been delivering knockout blows to its own players for decades by way of systematically denying a link between concussions (suffered while playing football) and long-term brain injuries.  The book and documentary film “League of Denial” details a massive cover-up, exposing the NFL’s mafia-like practices which included strong-arming, negligence and fraudulent behavior. 

The NFL allegedly allows some of its owners to get away with violating federal and state labor laws

Goodell himself continues to support a team name that many people find to be racist and extremely offensive.  

It’s a culture of lawlessness.  The Wild Wild West.  A realm in which the NFL does what it wants, when it wants.  

What happens when the police chief needs policing?  Who is in place to discipline Roger Goodell and his administration for their egregious behavior?  The court of public opinion might be the only body strong enough to force accountability and change.  

At best, league officials did not want to watch the damning casino surveillance video that was accessible to the police, prosecutor’s office, Rice’s attorneys (presumably) and TMZ.  At worst, Goodell and friends watched the video, suspended Rice for only two games, and allowed the Ravens to put on one of the most manipulative charades we’ll ever see from a professional sports team.

Both scenarios call for accountability at the top of the food chain.  At minimum, Goodell should provide a truthful explanation (and evidence to support it) of the investigation and subsequent suspension.  Goodell should also suspend himself from his post as commissioner in order to take some time to recognize his mistakes and figure out how to improve his job performance moving forward.  Another option is for Goodell to resign.

Olbermann suggests that “we” (the public, media, etc.) boycott all-things Ravens until team executives and the commissioner (Goodell) have been dismissed.  

With some current and former players staging a mutiny via social media in addition to the public outrage, Monday might be the day that forces a regime change in the all-mighty and powerful NFL. 

Let’s also hope that Janay Palmer is safe and sound after yet another traumatic day.  

Related Links:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline website 

Ray Rice Will Never Play in NFL Again, but Accountability Shouldn’t Stop There (Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report) 

The Real Reason Why Ray Rice Should Have Been Suspended Indefinitely (Jane McManus, ESPN) 

Treat Off-Camera Abusers Same as Ray Rice (Christine Brennan, USA Today Sports) 

10 Worst Scandals in NFL History (Tyson Langland, Bleacher Report)

Last post for the weekend…if you are in LA please set your DVR to KNBC ch4 or watch live at midnight tonight…iTim Cates of Fox Sports Radio, the legendary Fred Roggin and I are debating debating sports and pop culture. This is real debate. We did not discuss our positions beforehand (we never do on this show) and as a result everything you see is authentic. We’re talking Native American mascots, the new Clippers owner, Landon Donovan’s legacy and of course, everyone’s favorite and funny segment, Rapid Fire. Please watch and tweet me with your opinions! We welcome everyone to join the debate. You can also live stream the show online by googling terms such as “KNBC going Roggin show live stream.” Enjoy the show and as always, thank you for watching. I truly appreciate it!

In L.A.? Please watch live or set DVR to KNBC ch4 at 3pm PST. I’m talking sports on #GoingRoggin. Tim Cates, Fred Roggin and I want to hear your thoughts so please watch and tweet me at @jackie_pepper. 😝

You’re in for all kinds of shenanigans on this week’s #GoingRoggin. We’re talking the controversy surrounding Native American mascots (I’m looking at you, Washington NFL team and Atlanta bassba team), Steve Ballmer and the Clippers, Landon Donovan’s legacy, my Bat Mitzvah and much more. Tune in to KNBC channel 4 in Los Angeles on Saturday at 3pm PST or at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning. As always, thank you to Fred Roggin and the fine folks at KNBC Sports for having me on and also to everyone for watching. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

This is spectacular.  After working with the team last season, the San Antonio Spurs have hired former WNBA player Becky Hammon, making her the first-ever female assistant coach in NBA history.  Kudos to Spurs ownership and management, Gregg Popovich, commish Adam Silver and the NBA  for taking this progressive step.

There were signs that this day would eventually come back in 2009 when Nancy Lieberman became the first woman to coach an NBA D-League team.

Of all teams, the Spurs were the obvious choice to pull this off as they have consistently stepped outside the box during the Popovich era.  The five-time NBA champions were one of the first clubs to fully embrace international players and their style of play.  

The NBA has made significantly bigger strides than other major sports leagues in the last few years regarding inclusion.  

Celebrating diversity, acceptance of the LGBT community and booting Donald Sterling clearly demonstrate where the NBA stands on some of the most important social issues of this generation.  

With the hiring of Hammon, the NBA once again proves that it isn’t afraid to take a stand on social and political issues, which is a risk that many professional sports leagues and teams are too afraid to take (for obvious reasons).  

This is a wonderful day for women and sports.