**** Once in a Lifetime (2006)
They say Americans don’t like soccer and that it will never be as popular here as it is in the rest of the world. Yet I remember growing up in a time and place where not only did I play youth soccer but cheered for a successful American soccer team that played before sell-out crowds in an American Football stadium. This documentary proves that I wasn’t imagining things in my childhood. The New York Cosmos were real, they were good, and they were big.
All the figures involved in making the Cosmos – the players and the executives – are all there with the exception of the late Steve Ross and Pele (who wanted too much money to be interviewed). Still it’s a rollicking film with conflicting opinions showing that tempestuous feelings among the Cosmos haven’t faded with time. It’s an amazing story of how a team basically made of semi-pros playing at a small college football stadium grew into one of the first international all-star teams playing to a full house in the Meadowlands. And more amazing that some of those semi-pros stuck around long enough for the surreal experience of playing with Pele.
Ross invested a lot of his Warner Communications money into bringing stars like Pele and Giorgio Chinalgia to the USA as well as making the Cosmos an attraction with cheerleaders, an exploding scoreboard, and Bugs Bunny as a mascot. The free-spending ways also contributed to the demise of the NASL as other teams could not keep up, not to mention that the NASL expanded to way too many franchises.
The documentary uses graphics, music, and editing techniques that give it a 70’s vibe. I really enjoyed it and it made me very nostalgic for the golden age of the NASL and the 70’s in New York. Highly recommended for soccer fans or anyone interested in an unlikely American success story.