Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story Of The New York Cosmos

Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
Pele in silhouette doing a bicycle kick, with the New York skyline in the background. What is not to like. The cover basically takes the iconic greatest move in soccer, as performed by the greatest soccer player in the world, and puts it in front of one of the most recognizable skylines in the world. It basically tells the story in a single scene: the story of soccer coming to America. The menus are not bad either, and add to the 1970’s flavor of the film.

Features: 6/10
The film includes a few extras that are noteworthy. The biggest extra is a short that features many interviews about the soccer legend Pele. The interviews include stories about playing against Pele as well as stories about what type of individual the Brazilian legend is. Also included are highlights of various New York Cosmos games, including Pele’s last game for the team. Overall a neat addition to the documentary, and a neat look at the pinnacle of soccer in the US.

The Movie: 8/10
This is a great documentary by Paul Crowder, who was involved with two other gems that deserve a watch; Dogtown and Z-boys, and Riding Giants. The documentary is basically a history of the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos, a soccer team put together by Steve Ross in the 1970’s. The Cosmos were to be the biggest soccer team in the US, in a time when soccer was (if you can believe it) even less popular in the states than it is now. Ross, the creator of Warner Communications, spent lavishly to bring the biggest names in the world to the Cosmos, in an effort to introduce the “beautiful game” in a way that would hopefully see soccer rise to the level of baseball or football in this country. While this didn’t occur, the brief tornado that was international soccer sparked the interest of many in this country, if only for a brief time.

The Cosmos greatest catch was Pele, the Brazilian superstar who was rewarded handsomely for ending his illustrious career in the Big Apple. Other notables who were lured to the team include Giorgio Chinaglia, the Italian striker, as well as a legion of foreign players who were treated like kings in there adopted city. The interplay of the individuals makes for a great story, and is well told by Crowder.

The documentary is a series of interviews and storylines that are told by Matt Dillon (a strange choice). The story is told in a manner that is quick and fresh, and that keeps you interested in what is going on from minute to minute. This is more than just soccer however, as the story revolves around Pele and Chinaglia, who were bitter enemies on and off the field. There are stories of sex, power struggles, and also the real rags to riches, back to rags storyline that gives this story such depth. Overall it is a great story, told in an amazing manner, and I was entertained throughout. I found it really interesting to compare the idea that bringing Pele into the US would elevate soccer to a new level, much like the current situation where David Beckham has been brought to the US to “save soccer.” While I feel that perhaps the comparison can be made, it will be interesting to see if history repeats itself some 30 years later.

Video & Audio: 6/10
Not much to note here. Quite a bit of the video is from the 1970’s, and therefore it is not anything to write home about, but overall it takes you back to a time where leisure suits were all the rage. Even the uniforms were a bit too tight back then. The audio is also average, but neither detracts from the experience.

Value: 6/10
I love soccer (I had a hard time not writing football here.) I liked the way this story was told also, and so I like to think that this would be a great watch for anyone, regardless of whether they like the game or not. It is definitely something that I will watch again, but for most I would imagine a rent is a good choice.

Overall Score 7/10