Once in a Lifetime: The
Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (3/10)
by Tony Medley
This is a film that could
only have been made because it was about a New York team. In the first
place, it is about soccer, a sport that people have been trying to
promote to Americans for what seems like forever. Unsuccessfully.
This film starts out by
selling the game. One person after another claims that what sets soccer
apart from American sports is that there are ďno stops.Ē People demean
Americans by saying that they donít have the attention span to stay with
a game with ďno stops.Ē
Of course the fact that
thereís less to the game of soccer than meets the eye has nothing to do
with it. People run up and down a field trying to kick a ball into a
net. Yeah, thatís real exciting and real hard to understand. But letís
get back to the premise, that soccer is the only game with ďno stops.Ē
What about ice hockey? Thereís a game with not many stops. Oh, sure,
there is icing and there are penalty calls. But in soccer there are
corner kicks and penalty kicks and out of bounds, too. There are
probably as many ďstopsĒ in a soccer game as there are in an ice hockey
game. I donít like either game, frankly. I think what makes ice hockey
popular are the fights. The people who run the game recognize this by
encouraging fights and not decreeing instant banishment for them. Soccer
is just boring. Up and down; up and down. Very little scoring. Yawn!
So who would go to see a
documentary about a soccer team located in Des Moines? Nobody outside of
Des Moines. But New York? Hey, thatís different. This is The Big Apple!
This is where everything happens! The world ends at the eastern edge of
the Hudson River!
So here we have a documentary
about the New York Cosmos, a soccer team that had a few years in the
limelight because it was run by that ogre of a CEO, Steve Ross. This
film elevates Steve Ross to the level of a god. Letís start with that.
When I think of Steve Ross, the Chairman of the Board of Time Warner, I
think of a man who fired 2,000 people and then gave himself a $200
million bonus with the money that could have paid the salaries of the
2,000 people he fired. Two years later he was dead from prostate cancer,
so I guess there is some justice. But that didnít make the 2,000 people
who paid for his bonus with their careers any happier. So if you go see
this film and see all the accolades given to Ross, I hope you remember
Ross didnít like to lose, so
he wanted to make the Cosmos a winner and he did so by sending his
lawyer, Norman Sammick, flying all over the world to capture top talent,
hiring first, Pele, the greatest soccer player in history. Pele didnít
make them a winner, so he hired Georgio Chinglia, the top Italian soccer
player. When that didnít work, he added Carlos Alberto, another top
player, and the top German player, Franz Beckenbauer. That finally
worked and the Cosmos became a champion, even though two years in a row
they had to go to the final penalty kick in the final game to achieve
that. If the Cosmos were so great, who were these guys who played them
even? We never learn that. We never learn the name of even one player or
coach on the other teams. Hey, this is about New York!
There was a lot of jealousy
and infighting among the people who ran the Cosmos, which is not unusual
when you know that Ross was involved. The interviews with the people who
were fighting and their very frank comments on everyone else comprise
the most interesting parts of this film.
One thing everyone had in
common is that they all disliked Georgio Chinglia. He defends himself,
but the attacks are coming from all sides, and he becomes overwhelmed by
the quantity, if not the quality of the attacks. What finally happens to
Georgio must have made everyone else happy. Nobody gives Chinglia
credit, even in the movie, but the fact is that he apparently was the
prime force behind the hiring of Coach Eddie Firmani and it was only
after they hired Firmani that the Cosmos won.
Iím not a fan of soccer. Last
year, however, I saw a soccer movie I really liked, ďThe Game of Their
Lives,Ē about the 1950 United States World Cup team a ragtag group of
Yanks who beat England, the best team in the world, in the second round.
That held my interest. This one, at 97 minutes, had me really squirming.
This is a movie about a sport
about which America could care less, a movie about a league that lasted
less than a decade, and only survived that long because of the Cosmos.
The film touches on the fact that soccer was a dismal failure on network
TV, even though ABC gave it its best shot. One person is quoted as
saying he fought and fought against the decision to have a network
showcase. He thought they should only televise playoff games. He was
right. Nobody watched. Nobody cared. That about sums up this movie. So
who, outside of New York, would want to go see it?
March 30, 2006