Friday, February 14, 2020

A Different Kind of Love Story: Meet Zach and Julie Ertz

There are sports stories and there are love stories. I think it's safe to say, I'm a sucker for both. So on this Valentine's Day, what could be better than a story that involve two people whose first love was not one another, but their respective sports? To know the story of Zach and Julie Ertz is to know how sports shaped them, introduced them, and bonded them. That's a pretty good love—love story.
ESPN's E-60: Meet the Ertzes begins on January 21, 2018.  It's game day on opposite sides of the country. Jeremy Schaap resports, "one athlete is in California, playing for the US National team. The other is in Philadelphia, playing for the NFC title.  Their entire lives, winning was the only thing. Until they met each other. You've heard the story of boy meets girl, but you haven't heard this version."

What follows is the tale of how two athletes can be world class AND be each other's number one fans.

Julie Johnson, who grew up in Mesa, Arizona played soccer at Santa Clara University. She met Zach Ertz at a baseball game at Stanford's Sunken Diamond. Ertz, a tight end for the Cardinal saw her and the open seat next to her. He asked her if she wanted some sunflower seeds and this young woman, who once told her mom "I'm married to soccer" became Mrs. Ertz a little over three years later.
Zach, who was taken 35th in the overall draft by the Philadelphia Eagles said "I love how dedicated she was to her sport too. I really respected what she was trying to do as an athlete." In January 2014, Julie was selected third in the overall in the national women's soccer draft by Chicago. Soon, there was an even bigger opportunity: To play for the women's national soccer team.

My favorite moment in this video is when the camera captures Julie's reaction upon the national team defeating Denmark. A teammate ran over to tell her that the Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. She jumps with joy and drops to her knees to take a breath. Overcome with emotion—her team's victory, the distance from her husband, and his accomplishment—she begins to cry. Her teammates are at her side hugging and celebrating with her. A reporter manages to show Zach this clip after his game. Aquinas said what we see: to love is to will the good of another.

Each of us carries our own love stories. My first love was tennis; I fell so hard. I still hold a tenderness in my heart for that game. And to think of all the people in my life who have loved me and I have loved is humbling and gratifying. On this Valentine's Day, let us give thanks for the athletes we love, the sports we love and the stories of loving a game and loving one another. There's much to celebrate.

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