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Redesigned, Rebuilt and Reclaimed by Nick Kayal

Jason Barrett




Life was going unbelievably well. It was April 2015. My 7-month old twin daughters were healthy and loving life. My wife was in good spirits. You know the old adage, happy wife, happy life. I was beginning year number three of my evening show in Philadelphia when the chance to go National came knocking. After six years at 97.5 The Fanatic I was heading to SiriusXM to host the afternoon drive show on Bleacher Report Radio. No more 1-hour commute. A home studio. More money. A blank canvas each day to talk about the biggest stories in the world of sports. At 31-years old it happened sooner than I ever imagined it would. Little did I know that I was just 2-months away from my life changing forever.

It was the first Sunday night in June. Game 1 of the NBA Finals was set to begin. LeBron vs Steph. Cavs vs Warriors. I was going to DVR the game because my wife and her family wanted me to go to the Sands Casino to take in the Bill Maher Show. As we were eating dinner at one of the restaurants in the Casino prior to the show I came down with a really bad cough. I had to excuse myself from the table multiple times. I didn’t think anything of it. I ended up leaving the show after coughing most of the night and probably annoying those around me for disrupting their evening. I told my wife I had to go to the hospital. Something wasn’t right. I barely had any voice.

The doctors at the hospital said it was Laryngitis and should go away in a matter of a few days or weeks. That wasn’t the case. I struggled to get through a 3-hour radio show each day, limping to the finish line. Then on July 24th I was informed that SiriusXM and Bleacher Report had renegotiated their agreement and virtually all of the lineup was let go, without warning, I was out of work. I was shocked. But it was also a blessing in disguise. I knew I couldn’t keep struggling vocally each day, especially with football season coming up. The money time for the sports radio business.

Starting in August of 2015 I went to voice doctors in Bethlehem Pa, but I could tell they were overmatched and not diagnosing the root of my problems. They told me it was acid reflux that was causing my vocal fatigue. I took some medicine, changed my diet slightly, but still my voice shut down on me quickly. I knew something wasn’t right. Finally in March of 2016 my wife’s Aunt was able to connect me with a great voice surgeon and doctor in New York City. After some tests he confirmed that I had suffered a 25% paresis to my left vocal cord. Essentially, my left vocal cord was weakened from that cough I had, which was trigged by a viral infection that attacked the nerve/muscle that controls your vocal cords. My left vocal cord might have been even more paralyzed than 25% but probably regenerated and recovered to some extent, but it was still only about 70-75% of what it used to be.

This is what happened to FOX’s Joe Buck in 2011. He also had a paralyzed vocal cord. So about a month later I had surgery. Dr. Peak Woo took some fat from my stomach and injected my left vocal cord to bulk it up so that my vocal cords would connect and close. It helped to some degree, but still I had troubles. He told me that acid reflux wasn’t the issue. Yet I was still having more issues. So finally in June of 2016 after researching the best Laryngologists in the country I came across Dr. Robert Sataloff in Philadelphia. He has worked with some of the most iconic voice professionals in the world. Patty LaBelle, Neil Diamond and Robert Goulet. If he could restore their voices I felt confident he’d be able to help me.

As soon as I met him he assured me “there’s no question we will get you back.” After a bunch of tests he confirmed my weakness on my left side but also said acid reflux was a culprit and my right vocal cord was bowing. So in November of 2016 I had anti-reflux surgery on my stomach. A Nissen Fundoplication. It went very well. Then in January 2017 I had my neck cut open and had a thyroplasty implant placed next to my right vocal cord. In June of 2017 I was placed on reflux medicine and told I had to drastically alter my diet. Whatever tastes good, is essentially bad for you. No more coffee, alcohol, acidic, fried or greasy foods. I couldn’t believe it. I was 175 LBS, in very good shape, exercised 5 days a week and ate relatively well. But I loved foods with tomatoes, garlic, onions, etc. I never had any heartburn, so I couldn’t comprehend how or why I had reflux. But it was called “silent reflux.” It’s where the acid comes up and burns the vocal cords, causing you to clear your throat and destroying your voice.

From September 2015 through July 2017 I became miserable. I was depressed. Annoyed. Agitated. Doubting whether or not my life would be altered forever. Forget my career and doing a radio show, I didn’t want to talk on the phone, and socializing became incredible difficult. Being in a loud environment was discouraging. I couldn’t project my voice in a noisy venue. I even had trouble being social with my daughters and wife. It absolutely stunk. Finally in July 2017 after over a year of voice therapy my voice started to get better. Dr. Sataloff told me it would take up to 12-18 months to get the full effect from the thyroplasty. I was running out of patience.

Good news finally came in August when he cleared me to resume broadcasting activity. That was great. But I had no platform. After applying for jobs in various markets I realized I was going to miss my 3rd consecutive football season on the radio. Time was running out. My own self imposed deadline was creeping in. In February of 2017 I had to turn down an opportunity to go to Seattle and do a show in the Pacific Northwest because I was just coming off of surgery. I also had a chance to do some network fill-in work but botched that opportunity. I had pursued other opportunities but the offers weren’t there.

Finally in November of 2017 I saw that there was a job posting on Jason Barrett’s website, It was for a host position in Nashville, Tennessee. The job said you need to be able to talk SEC football along with the Titans, Vols and Predators. They had me at SEC. I’ve been a devout Alabama Crimson Tide fan for 25-years and knew in my heart that Philadelphia and National had come and gone and talking college football was my passion. Everyone and anyone that knows me knows that I love SEC football. So I applied.

I quickly realized that there were so many connections and correlations between Nashville and Philadelphia and Alabama. Marcus Mariota is the Titans QB. We discussed him constantly in 2014 with Chip Kelly coaching the Eagles. Derrick Henry was the RB for the Titans, my favorite Heisman winner from Alabama. The Predators are coached by Peter Laviolette who guided the Flyers to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010. And now the Tennessee Volunteers were hiring Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. It was too good to be true. I instantly knew that this was meant to be.

So I applied for the job and went through the process from the week before Thanksgiving, all the way through the month of December and halfway into January. I flew down the morning after Christmas and met with the station, the talent and management and quickly realized what I had already assumed and wanted. This was meant to be.

Now here I am, co-hosting a 3-man morning show, each weekday morning from 6a-10a ET on ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville. The show will begin on Monday February 5, 2018, the day after the Super Bowl. It’s an exciting time to move to a booming city like Nashville. The Titans are naming a new Head Coach after winning a playoff game. The Vols have a new Head Coach as they look for redemption in the SEC and the Predators are trying to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row. It’s a great time to be a part of Nashville’s BEST SPORTS TALK.

In conclusion I’ll tell you what I learned. First of all, never take ANYTHING for granted. Even something as simple as talking. You don’t realize what you have until you lose something. Even something like your voice. I learned that my wife is the most selfless person on the planet. The sacrifices she made while I was at my lowest make me appreciate how lucky I am. She carried my family when I was at rock bottom, physically, mentally, vocally, professionally, financially and even spiritually. I owe her so much.

I have to thank God for carrying me through the difficult times and bringing me back to better times. I have to thank my voice team for all of their help. Every doctor, surgeon and therapist that helped me get back have been a true blessing. And I owe Nashville, ESPN 102.5 The Game and Cromwell Radio so much. They have given me the opportunity of a lifetime. They decided to trust me over other candidates from out of the market, to candidates in the market. General Manager Jana Hampton and Program Director Ryan Porth have been tremendous to me and I can’t wait to validate their decision to choose me. I look forward to working with Braden Gall, Julian Council and the rest of my morning show team.

After two and a half years of surgeries, frustrations, sleepless nights, tears shed and prayers on top of prayers I finally have gotten it back. My voice. My passion. My family. My career.

Redesigned. Rebuilt. Reclaimed. A slogan that WWE Superstar Seth Rollins used to regain his career after a devastating injury is something that I kept in the back of my head while going through my own rehabilitation.

It’s now time to get to work. Buckle up, Nashville. The Morning Drive with Nick Kayal, Braden Gall and Derrick Mason starts Monday on ESPN 102.5 The Game.

Barrett Blogs

Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Barrett Blogs

Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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