Cash in on World Cup fever with this week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should!
Welcome back to Movies You Have Not Seen But Should. This week, to celebrate the World Cup taking place down in Brazil, we will look at the 2006 documentary Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, narrated by actor Matt Dillon.
The film looks at the story of one of the most popular and important teams in American soccer during the 1970s and 80s – the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League. The North American Soccer League was the first major professional soccer league in the United States, started in 1968. It attempted to try and bring the “Beautiful Game” to the U.S. and have a foothold in the gamut of American sports. The people in charge knew that to accomplish this feat, there needed to be a successful franchise in New York City. Hence, the Cosmopolitans (or Cosmos as they came to be known) were born.
The team was founded in 1970 and for its first few years was relegated to obscurity in the city. However, that would all change when the influence of one of its founders, Steve Ross, began to be used. Ross was the president of Warner Communications (as in Warner Brothers Pictures and Warner Brothers Records and such) at the time. He loved soccer and wanted to see the sport take off in America, so he spared no expense in trying to make the Cosmos great and promote the team. This included signing the greatest soccer player of all time, Brazilian superstar Pele, to a unheard of contract to play for the Cosmos.
This was only the beginning, as the Cosmos would sign some of the top players in the world to come play for them. This led to the success and popularity of the league during the mid to late 70s. The Cosmos would have great crowds at (new at the time) Giants Stadium.
Eventually, like a comet, the Cosmos and the league burnt out and folded in the mid 1980s. However, the successful work that the Cosmos and the NASL did led to the United States winning the bid to host the World Cup in 1994, which led to the start of a new professional soccer league (Major League Soccer or MLS). The growing popularity of the sport can be traced back to the wild and crazy story of the Cosmos.
This film features archival footage, as well as new interviews from those who lived through it (although there is no new interview with Pele as he declined an interview). One of the co-directors was Paul Crowder (who directed the documentary 1 which was featured last week in this series). Interestingly enough, one of the producers was actor Fisher Stevens. The film was released in limited theatrical release by Miramax Films (and also in part by ESPN) on July 7, 2006. It was well received by critics as it got an 82% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is available on DVD, Netflix Instant Streaming, and Amazon Instant Streaming. If you’re new to the soccer craze or have been a fan of the “Beautiful Game” for years, this is a great film. It’s also a nice commentary on life in the 1970s and 80s. It’s a great documentary that you may not have seen, but you should.