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Chris Fowler: Invictus Games promise to inspire

At ESPN Wide World of Sports, Chris Fowler hosts the Opening Ceremony for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
At ESPN Wide World of Sports, Chris Fowler hosts the Opening Ceremony for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
Editor’s Note: As he approaches his 30th anniversary with ESPN, Chris Fowler is one of sports television’s highest-profile commentators, working prestigious events such as the College Football Playoffs and grand slam tennis tournaments. He also hosted College GameDay for 25 years. Yet when he learned ESPN would televise Invictus Games Orlando 2016 (May 8-12, ESPN2 and ESPN3), Fowler immediately expressed interest in being involved because of his family’s military ties. His father fought in Korea. His brother, Drew, is a Marine and his cousin is an Army helicopter pilot. Fowler shares his reasons for wanting to host ESPN’s Invictus Games coverage with Front Row.

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I was honored and eager to be part of the Invictus coverage for several reasons.

First, the competitors are certainly inspiring. Their stories of courage and resilience are important to share with the audience – and that will be the focus of our coverage.

They are very personal stories, but they speak to a larger truth: that we are defined by our actions and our choices, not our circumstances.

Invictus Games competition coverage

Beginning at 8 a.m. ET today, watch Invictus Games competition including powerlifting, rowing and archery finals on ESPN3. At 7 p.m., ESPN2 airs a Primetime Show recapping today’s events and previewing Tuesday’s competitions. For more programming information, visit ESPN MediaZone.

Secondly, I’m looking forward to meeting them and watching them compete. For most, if not all of them, these games are of much greater importance than just medals or records. They represent a crucial part of the next stage in their lives. That said, many are extremely serious and as competitive as any athletes. I am grateful to have a chance to help them share their strength of spirit with an appreciative audience, including the Herbstreits. My sidekick in college football, [ESPN analyst] Kirk Herbstreit, plans to bring his sons to the Games because he wants them to experience the competitors’ spirit and strength of will.

And I know our coverage will have a texture appropriate to this unique, powerful event. We will all try our best to find the correct tone and sensitivity. It’s a long way from the loose hysteria of College GameDay. But these Games are anything but somber. They will often feel celebratory, reflecting how much they mean to the soldiers involved.

We will present the events in an understated way, very respectful of the competitors and their wishes to be treated as athletes first while at the Games. The abilities of these competitors will be eye-opening for many viewers.

We will present the events in an understated way, very respectful of the competitors and their wishes to be treated as athletes first while at the Games. The abilities of these competitors will be eye-opening for many viewers. For some, watching these athletes can be a bit uncomfortable at first. But I think the audience that invests in the Invictus Games will come away enriched, inspired and better informed about veterans’ issues.

For the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, we are essentially presenting to a TV audience what has been produced by the Games’ production team. It will reflect the close bonds and powerful sense of community these soldiers share.

The event should invoke great pride in those watching. I hope I’ll have the chance to express my admiration to Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, for his commitment and authentic passion for the Invictus Games. I don’t expect he will be a difficult interview in that setting.

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