Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
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Index 13 reviews in total 

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

"American" Football

Author: James McNally from Toronto, Canada
13 August 2006

I saw this film at the Hot Docs Film Festival in May 2006. The North American Soccer League was struggling along through the 1970s until the New York Cosmos, owned by Warner Communications head Steve Ross, decided to bring superstar Pele to the Big Apple. Suddenly, attendance was up, and the Cosmos started winning. Continuing the formula by bringing some European stars over, the Cosmos won several league titles over the next few years. In the process, the once-moribund NASL expanded quickly to 24 teams. Unfortunately, the resulting dilution of talent, and the inability of smaller-market clubs to pay the huge salaries demanded by European or Latin American stars, meant that the league soon imploded.

The film tells the story with humour and verve, and it's hard not to be a little bit nostalgic for the days when 70,000 people would crowd into Giants stadium to watch "the other football." But ultimately, the Cosmos' strategy was short-sighted. Building an audience for soccer in North America was going to take time, and the free-spending style of Ross and the Cosmos attracted only fairweather fans, who would melt away as soon as the team stopped winning. Other franchises couldn't attract enough fans in the first place, and the league suffered as a result.

It was interesting that the director admitted afterwards that he is a huge fan of Chelsea Football Club in the English Premiership. Chelsea are following a similar strategy at the moment, with the seemingly endless billions of owner Roman Abramovich funding the construction of another superteam. So far, they've won back to back titles in England, but to the detriment of the league, according to many observers. Without a salary cap, the English Premier League drains talent away from the rest of the world, and Chelsea are the richest club of all. This concentration of talent makes the game less competitive in the long term, and while it may attract a few new fans, they're not the sort of fans who will stick around if and when the team starts losing.

Many of the American innovations brought to the game by the NASL have made it into the game in the rest of the world. For example, penalty shootouts to decide games tied after regulation time. This will always be unpopular with football purists, but for the casual fan, it certainly adds excitement to the game. Other gimmicks weren't so successful, thankfully. Who wants to see cheerleaders at a football match?

The only flaw in the film was the absence of any present-day interviews with Pele or Johan Cruyff (who played for the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats franchises), though I believe numerous attempts were made to obtain their participation. The director Paul Crowder promised lots of fun stuff in the DVD extras, including their attempts to get Pele on board.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Those Lucky New York Fans

Author: Cabrone from London
21 May 2006

What a crazy laugh the New York Cosmos must have been back in the 70s! This is the story of one man and his dream to turn what was not much more than a pub team playing in a delapidated stadium into one of the best. Although the wheels came completely off in the early 80s it must have been huge fun whilst the show was on the road. As a football fan what would I have given to have Pele and Beckenbauer in my team (maybe even the crazy Chinaglia too), football is all about passion and dreams and the management team at the Cosmos delivered the fantasy in spades.

The film runs at a slick pace and there are lots of funny moments, the Mick Jagger bit made me laugh out loud. If you love football go and see it, you won't be disappointed. If you don't you'll still enjoy it as this is as much about all the clashing egos as much as what the team did on the pitch.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A great movie for US soccer fans

Author: wayneetw-1 from United States
21 September 2006

I was the radio broadcaster for the Rocheter Lancers of the North American Soccer league from 1975-1980 and I spent quite a bit of time at Giants Stadium seeing Cosmos games,if we weren't playing. The film brought back all kinds of memories. It was great. I never would have recognized Shep Messing who played for Rochester in 1979. Also Chinaglia (sp?) I thought looked like Tony Soprano today. The Lancers used to play the Cosmos twice a year, once in New York (rather New Jersey) and once in Rochester. Plus we played a semi final series against the Cosmos in 1977...losing both games. We didn't beat the Cosmos after 1976. Still despite our lack of success, the Cosmos were a great team to watch. Anyboy who was a US soccer fan in the 1970's should like this movie. I didn't know it existed until I saw it on ESPN2 on 9/20/06.

PS-Downing Stadium on Randall's Island was my least favorite venue to broadcast from...Giants stadium was the best||| Yankee stadium was fun too in 1976.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Loved It!

Author: stancollins from Maryland, USA
22 September 2006

One of the bubbliest, most rollicking, and most surprising documentaries you'll ever see.

I am a soccer fan, but you won't have to be one to enjoy this movie. If you like anything about the 1970s--the music, the disco scene, the cheesy TV graphics--you'll love this movie.

It's premised on the nearly-insane vision of multimillionaire media mogul Steve Ross to make soccer a big time sport in the USA. It led to absurd spending, classic sports excess, and surprise, surprise--sold out stadiums! The whole thing was a roller-coaster destined to crash from the very beginning, but my it's fun to watch happen.

The cinematography is quick, flashy, and usually tongue-in-cheek. The interviewees inform, hedge, dodge, bicker, and blame. You end up with a partially contradictory but often balanced view of what happened with this wildest of teams. The personalities of this movie are its most endearing quality.

It all makes for an entertaining story for non-enthusiasts, but an epic story for anyone with any liking for this game. There are a few factual discrepancies (the largest of which was that the NASL had accomplished a few things in cities other than NY before Pele ever got there), but they're more than compensated for by the insight the film gives to its central topic.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Outrageous and Wonderful!

Author: dollwitchy from United States
5 July 2006

Wow! What a blast from the past! I spent 5 years of my life working for the Cosmos in their ticket office- 1978-1983. I missed the early years, but got a real education from watching this film. It brought back great memories of the years I did spend there. When did we all get so old? If they hadn't given names on the bottom of the screen, I wouldn't have recognized half the people being interviewed.The clips of Pele and the early days of the Cosmos were a pleasure to see. Giorgio, well, I always considered him a bad guy, even more after seeing this film. I consider this a must see for anyone who was a Cosmos fan and a great education in U.S. soccer history for the younger folks!

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Not About The Talking Heads. (But contain a lot of them ha ha)

Author: Spuzzlightyear from Vancouver
7 November 2006

Hey Kids! Remember the NASL? I TOTALLY do. The Calgary Boomers were my town team, my Dad had season tickets, and I was insanely jealous that I didn't catch one of those nifty looking NASL balls they kicked into the stands :( 'Once In A Lifetime' is a great documentary about the rise and falls of THE premier teams (besides Calgary of course) of the league. I remember bits and pieces, like for example, Pele being in it of course, but that's about it. This film gives a GREAT overview of what went right (eg Money) in the organization and what went wrong (eg Money). It also goes to show you the classic example of throwing so much money at a team to form a dream team and getting nothing (something New York does often).

A GREAT history full of fun facts for the Soccer aficionado. I'm gonna get the DVD for my Dad this Christmas!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Nowhere enough details

Author: OldSchoolWhitey64 from Louisville, KY
24 October 2006

I really liked it, but it just moves by too fast.There were so many moments and subjects that they should have dwelled on a little longer,that they cut away too fast from.

This may be because the attitude expressed early in the movie,about Americans' attention spans;that ours are so short,they can't focus long enough on the game of soccer(i.e. football)to appreciate it,and I think the filmmakers edited it to fit that,in the assumption that us Yanks wouldn't find it interesting if the film had been done like their football docs.Maybe they're right,maybe most of us wouldn't,but I know I would have,and I wish they had done so.They could have filled it up with so much more detail,more stories,and so on.Good ,but should have been much more.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Great Film about an Extraordinary Happening.

Author: johnstevens1711 from United Kingdom
8 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I knew a little about the New York Cosmos before I saw this movie, and had always been intrigued as to how Pele, Beckenbauer and others came to play in a country that had seemed so apathetic to association football or soccer.

The movie tells the story of exactly how this happened, beginning with the purchase of the Cosmos by Steve Ross of Warners Communication as a favour to the owners of Atlantic Records in the mid 1970's. They immediately signed the world's best known player Pele, and as media interest grew, the popularity of the club also grew. Following Pele, several established European players came over the join the clubs of the growing league, whilst the Cosmos recruited Italian Chinaglia and German legend Beckenbauer amongst others. The Cosmos ended up playing in front of 80,000 fans and winning several league championships, before imploding in the early 1980's.

The film features testimony and recollections from many of the principal protagonists, although the deceased Ross is not present, and Pele declined to be involved. This makes for some good moments as several different people claim the credit for the same thing on more than one occasion. The soundtrack is fantastic and the soccer action well presented, although not using classical football broadcasting techniques, such as wide angle shots. I enjoyed the film, which unfolded the story of the Cosmos in an interesting and rather fun way. My favourite moments were recollections from the amateur American players who had the luck to play with several of the greatest players to play the game. These men seemed humble and were all amusing and engaging. They certainly looked better than the arrogant Chinaglia.

My only sustained criticism of the film is that it rather rushed the ending and the slide towards oblivion of the Cosmos, dwelling a little too much on the signing of Pele. However, this is a minor flaw. Any fan of football interested in the history of the game should watch this well made documentary.

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Mildly interesting--particularly if you lived back then...

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
5 February 2012

The North American Soccer League (NASL) an abortive attempt to create a huge sports organization on par with other major league sports such as the NFL and MLB. Their premier team clearly was the New York Cosmos--a very, very high-priced collection of stars from around the globe. What's surprising to me is not that they won a lot of games but that they didn't win even more considering their bankroll. This film chronicles the history of this club as well as gives insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the Cosmos.

When the film begins, the Cosmos are more like a semi-pro club at best. No one attends their games, they have no stars and there just isn't any interest. The same could be said for the rest of this rag-tag league. However, with the coming of big money from Warner Brothers came new life to the team and the rest of the league. With the coming of Pelé and other top world stars came a sudden interest by the public. In fact, there was so much interest that the league even eventually got their own network contract...and soon the league just fizzled.

I found the film pretty interesting when it came to personalities. While the team had HUGE stars, it also had some huge egos. And, it was rather funny how decades later, folks associated with the team STILL hate the team's most productive star, Giorgio Chinaglia--who didn't do a lot in this documentary to get the viewers to like him! Overall, the film is worth seeing--particularly if you lived through the era. It's also a great show to watch to learn how NOT to run a league--as you'll see if you watch the film. Interesting.

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The amazing story of one of the most important soccer teams in world history, and they're American?

Author: Joe Mills from Ireland
7 March 2011

"The rise and fall of the N.Y. Cosmos. The soccer team that brought Pele to America; against the backdrop of N.Y. City in the 70's. "

The recently reformed New York Cosmos are thee American soccer franchise. In 1970's New York they were the biggest thing to hit the city since the Afro. A shining star for soccer in the worlds most Cosmopolitan City, they brought the game to a new audience. Unfortunately, the star collapsed almost as quickly as it was born, but it left a lasting mark on the American psyche. This is a really well told story about a piece of N.Y. City history and not just for those who are acquainted with the game. I wish there were more like this. 9/10

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