April 25, 2014

Why I Love Jim Donovan

Channel 3 Sports Director and radio voice of the Browns, Jim Donovan, is taking a leave of absence to undergo a bone marrow transplant.  Remarkably, the ebullient Donovan has been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia for over a decade – his colleagues, viewers, and listeners unaware all this time.

Donovan made the announcement on his Channel 3 sportscast last night, stating, “My goal is to get healthy and be back covering Cleveland sports as soon as possible. I’m going to really miss my job. I love what I do.”

Donovan has been the media face (and voice) of the Browns since their return in 1999.  Much like Nev Chandler to the previous generation, Browns fans who have grown up in this new era over this past decade have an instant connection with Donovan.

After particularly late nights out on Saturdays in college, I can remember waking up on Sunday mornings unable to drag myself to the nearest sports bar with satellite TV.  My fellow roommates from Cleveland and I were sentenced to little football icons moving up and down a field on NFL.com accompanied by Donovan’s call over the internet.  These were the nascent days of NFL.com – free audio and crude graphics simulating the movement of the ball on what seemed a 5 minute delay.

The Browns, as we’re all aware, were terrible.  But Donovan’s enthusiasm cracked us up and kept our rapt attention as another hopeless Sunday afternoon progressed.  We loved talking about how he made every 3 yard gain by Travis Prentice/Ben Gay/(Insert long lost name) sound like the most exciting achievement.

In that way, he’s been the perfect voice for this particular era of Browns football.

It’s not that he’s uncritical or over-enthusiastic, his natural affect is just more enthusiastic than yours.  Out of affection, we loved cracking on his constant enthusiasm, thinking Gay had just broken off a 25 yard run only to hear him finish that sentence with… “for the 4 yard gain!!!”  But, we loved cracking on it – just that, enjoyment – not out of frustration or mockingly because we thought he was bad, but because we loved that he was our announcer.  He may not have as long a history here like Tait, Coleman, Chandler, Score, and Hamilton – but like all of those guys, he’s ours.

His call defines what I think has been the most exciting moment at the new Browns Stadium – the call itself making it the most exciting moment in this decade devoid of them.  Of course, I’m talking about William Green’s 60 yard run down the sideline and into the 2002 playoffs.  The “Run, William, Run!” makes a rather above-average moment into a memorable moment.


Browns President Mike Holmgren issued this statement last night:

“On behalf of everyone here at the Cleveland Browns, I’d like to wish Jim a speedy recovery. Jim has been a respected voice in the Cleveland sports scene for many years, and his association with our organization is held in high esteem. His name has become synonymous with the Browns and we consider him a part of our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this process.”

It’s astounding to think all that enthusiasm and professionalism he brought to his job during a rough era of Browns football was done while he suffered from leukemia.  Amazing.  Incredible.  What a pro’s pro.

His recovery from the transplant is expected to last five months.  He hopes to be back behind the mic for the coming Browns season.

Whenever a Cleveland sports team creates that memorable postseason moment, the fan wants to experience and relive it in every way – most importantly through the tenured men we identify as the voice of those teams.  We want race home to hear (and replay on loop) Tait’s call of LeBron’s shot; Hamilton’s call of Belle’s homer.

The internet has boomed and developed.  I’ve moved on to the NFL Ticket, RedZone, text alerts, and a host of internet aids on Sundays now.  But if, and when, there is a particularly glorious Sunday afternoon – such as the New England game last fall – I have to check in after the game to hear how Donovan called it.

Get well soon.  If the Browns ever do create that memorable postseason moment, we’ll want you there.  After this past decade and upcoming year, it’s likely no one deserves it more.

  • stin4u

    Best wishes to Jim. It is definitely shocking to know this is something he’s been dealing with for so long. It won’t be the same hearing anyone’s voice but his calling the game on the radio.

  • Painesville

    Godspeed, Jim. The thought of Dieken fumbling his way through a broadcast all by himself has me wanting to replace my car radio with a fish tank.

  • oribiasi

    Get well soon Jim. God be with you.

    And here’s to the Browns signing a contract with Tom Hamilton to do the games Jim can’t. Is there anyone better? Maybe ask Joe Tait to sub perhaps?

  • mgbode

    well, the marrow transplant sadly means the chemotherapy didn’t put it into full remission. if he’s been fighting for 11 years, it seems like the logical choice.

    the real question is how advanced the disease is. if it’s considered “advanced” then his odds of being with us even 2 years after the transplant are very low. if it’s not though, there are decent chances of him being around at least 6 years (if not longer if he can get it to go into full remission). Charts are in the link below.

    http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/Undrstnd_D…omes/index.html

    Here’s a link for more info on what he’s battling:

    http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/Undrstnd_Disease_Treat/Lrn_about_Disease/AML/index.html

    most relevant parts for faster reading

    ——————————————————————————–
    Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. In AML, the bone marrow makes many unformed cells called blasts. Blasts normally develop into white blood cells that fight infection. However, the blasts are abnormal in AML. They do not develop and cannot fight infections. The bone marrow may also make abnormal red blood cells and platelets. The number of abnormal cells (or leukemia cells) grows quickly. They crowd out the normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets the body needs.
    ——————————————————————————–

    For a patient with AML, the treatment plan may include:
    Chemotherapy — drugs that destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing (described below).
    A bone marrow or cord blood transplant (described below).
    All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) if he or she has the subtype of AML known as promyelocytic leukemia.
    Other newer treatments that were recently developed or are still being studied in clinical trials.
    ——————————————————————————–

    For some patients, a bone marrow or cord blood transplant may offer the best chance for a long-term remission. A transplant is a strong treatment with risks of serious side effects, so it is not used for all patients with AML. A transplant is used when chemotherapy alone is unlikely to provide a long-term remission.

  • Right Side

    @2. Those were my first thoughts while reading this article.

    Speedy recovery Jim, The Browns coverage on STO as well as the play by play will not be the same with out you.

  • 5KMD

    Mgbode,

    Your notes talk about AML. The article states Donovan has CLL. Big difference there, but bone marrow transplant is never the first line treatment for these things so Jim does need our thoughts and prayers as it must be getting worse not better.

  • 5KMD
  • MrCleaveland

    Thanks for the videos.

    We Clevelanders have been very fortunate to have a long, long line of superb sports broadcasters, and Jim is right up there with the best of them.

  • crobarred

    My fiance has AML and I know what Donovan must be going through. I really hope they can put this into remission and it stays in remission.

    I get both DirecTV’s sunday ticket and the NFL.com gameday audio package. Anytime there would be a big play it was great to hear Donovan’s call. I hope he beats this and we can continue to hear calls like “Run William Run”.

  • mgbode

    @5K – thank you for the correction and link to the proper portion of the site. either way, thoughts and prayers for one of Cleveland’s finest.

  • Ben

    I would be so happy if the Browns miss the whole season if it means you get to be there for the 2012 opener…get well.

  • Harv 21

    These transplants are extremely difficult and dangerous, especially the post-procedure graft v. host disease and the side-effects from anti-rejection meds. But if this guy is tough enough to keep co-workers from knowing he was this sick for 10 years, that is one tough hombre.

    Good luck, Jim, God bless and get back to that booth soon.

  • 5KMD

    Happy to help clarify Mgbode. AML almost always needs treatment right away as it can get bad quickly. CLL can actually just be monitored for long periods of time. That’s why Jim may have been able to “hide” this for so long. If the person isn’t symptomatic, you just watch the blood counts, etc.

    If a BM transplant is in the works though, things must not be going well right now. So, at this point the differnce between AML and CLL is moot. He needs treatment, rest, and prayers.

  • Pale Dragon

    I have a similar memory of listening to the Browns games on Internet radio feeds during college. Jim Donovan is a great announcer; his enthusiasm is infectious.

    I am really sad to hear this news. I hope he is able recover and call another Browns game soon.

  • chuck r.

    Good Luck Jimmy. Cant wait to hear you call the games again!

  • GhostToMost

    The curse of the Browns play by play man, except this is much more sinister than any sports related “curse”. I hope this isnt as serious as it sounds and I hope Jim gets well soon.

  • Joe

    Jimmy has been a pro’s PRO over the years. We wish him a fast and complete recovery. He has always had a great sense of humor as well which was always appreciated. Look forward tohearing you as soon as you are ready to bring it…

  • Reggie Ruckus

    @ GhostToMost, after I picked my jaw off the floor when I saw this news this morning I had the same thought…first Nev Chandler and Casey Coleman and now Jim Donovan.

    I’m amazed that for the past 11 years JD has been able to not only work but work a schedule that would wear down a healthy man. You think he ever saw Shaun Rogers standing on the side while sitting around practice day after day and thought to himself “what a wuss”?

    JD seems like a really good dude and I enjoy not only his play by play call on the Browns radio broadcasts but the programs he hosts on STO. I wish him nothing but the best and hope he’s back on the airwaves soon.

  • Ike

    I’ve grown up on Jimmy Donovan and was shocked to hear the news. Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to Donovan.

  • Dave

    Jim Donovan is the rare commentator who is just as excited as me to see(hear) a big play for the Browns. He’s more important to Cleveland than any player and I’m cheering harder for him than touchdowns or wins

  • CavsBrownsFan

    I still get chills whenever this guy yells “TOUCHDOWN!” Get well soon.