And kudos to Once in a Lifetime for jogging my memory about one of the most peculiar eras in pro sports. For a few short years, pro soccer teams were selling out some of the largest venues in America: 75,000 would turn out to watch the New York Cosmos (with superstar Pelé at the helm) kick a little white ball around on a giant field of grass. By comparison, the most popular team in baseball, the New York Yankees, currently draw about 52,000 people to see each game.
But baseball's been around in America for a century. Soccer came out of nowhere, with the NASL cobbled together from a couple of tiny, failed soccer leagues which no one cared about. Big players like Pelé (well, mainly just Pelé) were mega-celebrities earning millions. And then, a few years later, it was all gone, and soccer retreated to the rest of the world aside from America once again.
How'd this all happen? Well, Once in a Lifetime walks us through the story, and it turns out it's mostly the usual suspects: Clever marketing, chutzpah, and sheer luck got soccer to the top, and good old corporate greed brought it down. It's all outlined here in gory detail, though the memories of many of those involved with soccer during this era seem to have faded considerably. Paul Crowder and John Dower's documentary is an obvious must-see for any soccer fan, but casual moviegoers may be put off. The story is complex, and it ping-pongs from corporate machinations to footage of various games (the outcomes of which are largely irrelevant to the meta-story here), and the film almost begs us to care about them. It's right there in the title, alas: This is primarily the story of the New York Cosmos and not a movie about the NASL as a whole, the latter being a far more interesting subject.
After sitting through the film I feel better informed and reasonably entertained, but mostly I'm stricken with nostalgia for '70s fashion and Marv Albert's hairdo. Alas I find I'm no more interested in soccer now than ever before. Your mileage may vary.
The DVD includes archival interviews with Pelé, a deleted scene about the Haitian soccer team, and footage from three "important" games from the era.
10 fieldgoals? Oops, wrong game.
In Theaters: Friday 7th July 2006
Budget: $1000 thousand
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Paul Crowder, John Dower
Screenwriter: Mark Monroe
Starring: Pelé as Himself (archive footage), Franz Beckenbauer as Himself, Carlos Alberto as Himself, Raphael de la Sierra as Himself, Phil Woosnam as Himself, Jay Emmett as Himself, Werner Roth as Himself, Peppe Pinton as Himself, Giorgio Chinaglia as Himself, Shep Messing as Himself, Clive Toye as Himself, Nesuhi Ertegün as Himself (archive footage), Ahmet Ertegun as Himself, Matt Dillon as Narrator (Voice)