Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (2006) Poster

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A great movie for US soccer fans
wayneetw-121 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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"American" Football
mcnally13 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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Those Lucky New York Fans
Cabrone21 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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Loved It!
stancollins22 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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Outrageous and Wonderful!
dollwitchy5 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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Not About The Talking Heads. (But contain a lot of them ha ha)
Spuzzlightyear7 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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Nowhere enough details
OldSchoolWhitey6424 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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A Great Film about an Extraordinary Happening.
johnstevens17118 June 2006
Warning: 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...
MartinHafer5 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?
pazmills7 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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Entertaining and lively documentary that has strong contributions really well edited together
bob the moo4 September 2007
In the 1970's a group of businessmen decided to bring football to the United States of America. Their best efforts were not really cutting it as the New York Cosmos were playing in a run-down stadium to small crowds and general media apathy. This all changed though when the signing of Pele made the sport the talk of the town. This documentary looks back at the rise of the Cosmos, with stars coming into the US sport and also the fall, where the television contract with ABC fell through.

A timely showing with the BBC Storyville season this one because it screened at more or less the time when David Beckham flew out to LA to join the Galaxy as the latest attempt to break America. Only time will see how that goes but one would hope he has a positive impact because otherwise it is a shame that he has not chosen to seek out more of a professional challenge rather than trying to break a nation. Anyway, regards of how Beckham does, this film does a good job of summarising the rise and fall of football (soccer) in the USA during the seventies and early eighties.

A little in the accessible style of "The Kid Stays in the Picture", the film makes great use of contributions to tell the story and it is impressively edited together to be fast-paced and interesting. It does help to be a fan of the sport but even if you are not the film still makes for an interesting sporting story. Contributors are edited across one another to make sure that we know that perhaps the truth is not out there (indeed one says that the makers will get a range of stories about who brought Pele to the Cosmos); stories are told within the main story (the dirt being painted green the best one for my money) and generally it is the people themselves who drive the story.

In regards this it is of course a shame that Pele is absent (due to the fee he demanded to take part in the film) but it is again a sign of how well put together it is that really you don't feel his absence that much. The others are all lively and interesting and I did like the way that the footage was edited together to allow for disagreement and energetic presentation of the subject – again making it interesting even if you know nothing of the subject (and other than modern football in the UK, I confess to knowing very little of the NY Cosmos or the attempts to break the sport in the US market).

Overall then an enjoyable documentary that yet again demonstrates the value of the BBC Storyville stable. Thanks to the engaging contributions and impressive editing together of the whole package, the film is interesting and accessible throughout and does a great job of capturing a period in football's and US sports' history in a way that is entertaining and lively.
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asc8511 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
As someone who grew up in Northern New Jersey during the rise of the Cosmos in the late 70's/early 80's, I was looking forward to seeing this movie, and it looked so good in the trailers. While it did not play near me (or it came and went so fast I didn't notice), I was still looking forward to seeing this on DVD. However, as you can tell by my rating, I was very much disappointed. I didn't think it was possible to make this film so dull and plodding, but that's what was accomplished. Far too much time was spent on the Pre-Pele days. And their coverage of the Cosmos teams was incomplete and showed a lack of understanding. One example: They talk about the signing of Chinaglia with little hype, but talked about the signing of Beckenbauer as "the first time someone that good jumped to the NASL while still in his prime." In fact, it was Chinaglia who was the first great player to jump to the NASL, and he came over when he was 29 years old. Beckenbauer, on the other hand had been playing in World Cups since 1966, and came to the Cosmos in 1977 at the age of 32. Beckenbauer was still a great player, but like Pele, he was playing on the downside of his career. Indeed, Chinaglia became the greatest scorer in NASL history.

Finally, the DVD had a "deleted scene" of the Cosmos having to play a phony Haitian team because the original team "jumped immigration." That was hysterical and something that few people knew about. This absolutely should have been in the original cut, compared to many of the other choices that Miramax made.
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Like the NASL--almost but not quite
bdonut9 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this flick and in many ways it beats the book by a mile as the interviews esp. of Cosmos personnel (hey, they even interviewed the guy in the Bugs Bunny mascot costume!) but there are a lot of generalizations and misinterpretations because I think it was done by a Brit from a soccer point of view.

First of all, the football (as in American football) footage in reference to 1977 he used was of the USFL (TB Bandits vs. Houston Gamblers), a league which did not start until 1983. So it was obvious NFL Films would not cooperate with his flick but this sort of "throw a generic football clip in" doesn't cut it with North Americans, Mr. Director. It's sloppy film-making.

The claim that the Cosmos were #1 in the NY sports market at the time is preposterous. That era from 1975-81 was when the NY Yankees rose from a decade of poor play and poorer attendance to lead the American League every single year in attendance plus go to four World Series, winning two. Sure the Cosmos were incredibly popular but to suggest baseball was suffering in NY under the Cosmos' glare is laughable. Add to that both the NY Jets and NY Giants of the NFL had a greater average attendance per game than the Cosmos.

Anyway, it is an entertaining film esp, for those of us who grew up with and loved the NASL. As far as the guy who wished Cruyff was interviewed. he must have been asleep as the Dutch great makes a great comment on the shootout in the film.

Lastly, this whole Cosmos were ahead of the curve in having 14 different nationalities on one team like they invented that. The year before the Cosmos joined the NASL, the 1970 champion Rochester Lancers had players from 12 different nations in their squad. Even hockey (Swedes, Finns and Cezchs came over) or baseball (always had Latin Americans since the '50s) had that mix...it's our immigrant, no import quotas in sports history.
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