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



Critic Consensus: You don't have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this stylish, breezy slice of 1970s sports history.

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Movie Info

While professional soccer is still struggling to find a firm foothold in the United States, in the 1970s the North American Soccer League marked the brave first attempt to introduce the game to American sports fans. While most teams had only limited success at best, one did manage to break through to genuine mainstream popularity -- the New York Cosmos. The brainchild of Steve Ross (a passionate soccer fan who was also a major executive at Warner Communications) and Ahmet Ertegun and Nesuhi Ertegun (the founders of Atlantic Records), the Cosmos got off to a rocky start in 1971 (no one was especially happy with the playing field at Randall's Island, and some rowdy fans were known to throw broken glass onto the grass), but things changed in 1975 when the world's most celebrated soccer star, the Brazilian champion Pele, signed with the Cosmos for a five-million-dollar payday. With the arrival of Pele, the Cosmos became a hit with both fans and the media, and the players became the toast of the town, earning their own private table at Studio 54. A number of other international soccer stars were soon lured to the Cosmos, including Franz Beckenbauer, Rodney Marsh, and Carlos Alberto, but with the turn of the decade, the team began losing favor with fans and folded in 1985. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos is a documentary by Paul Crowder and John Dower that looks at the team's remarkable history and includes interviews with many of the Cosmos' star players (with the notable exception of Pele, who declined to participate).
PG-13 (for language and some nudity)
Documentary , Sports & Fitness
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News & Interviews for Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

Critic Reviews for Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (22)

... treats its audience like a bunch of attention deficit disorder cases.

Full Review… | August 12, 2006
Miami Herald
Top Critic

... accomplishes the minor miracle of making you mourn a sports team you likely never knew existed in the first place.

August 12, 2006
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic

Once in a Lifetime, which relies on interviews and archival footage, may not be a great documentary, but it certainly gets its points across.

August 12, 2006
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic

Once in a Lifetime would have benefited greatly from historical and outside perspective, but the story on screen is such a kick that even monotone narrator Matt Dillon gets caught up in the excitement.

July 28, 2006
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

A cavalcade of theatrical personalities, juicy war stories, unforgiven grievances and old-school cinema dazzle.

July 27, 2006
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

An energetic and often enjoyable documentary, particularly for soccer fans.

July 21, 2006
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

Once in a Lifetime is a great documentary giving the American public a view into how the WORLDS sport almost became Americas sport in the 70s. The story is fascinating and the rifts that still exist between many of the people involved in the NASL and the Cosmos are played out on camera too comedic results. However Once in a Lifetime has one major flaw that makes it hard to really give it the credit it should deserve. How do you make a documentary about the Cosmos and the NASL and not interview the man who made it what it is? Pele needed to be interviewed. Beckenbauer, Messing, Roth and Chinaglia are great but without Pele the NASL never would have happened. Rumors are his asking price for footage was outrageous but again in order to gain credibility as a legitimate documentary it had do be done otherwise you are left with the entertaining yet lacking Once in a Lifetime.

Jonathan Porras
Jonathan Porras

[font=Century Gothic]"Once in a Lifetime" is a flashy and mildly interesting documentary about the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League which was a moribund, semi-pro league until Warner Communications CEO Steve Ross stepped in and brought Brazilian soccer great Pele to New York. There are some fascinating parallels between the Cosmos and the Yankee teams of the same era, but the Yankees definitely had more personality.(I don't think there is a single reason why soccer has never flourished here. Maybe it is because the United States is a heterogenous country that already has several popular sports, each with their own devoted following. Certainly, nativism is too simplistic an explanation.) Included is archival footage of games along with interviews with management, coaches, players, sportswriters and even the mascot...and oh yeah, almost forgot, Henry Kissinger.[/font] [font=Century Gothic]The effect that the Cosmos had on soccer in the United States was almost negligible and it would not be until the 1994 World Cup, that soccer would be firmly established here with Major League Soccer. The overall mistake was in aiming too high, making the league too top heavy by signing expensive world players and concentrating them in New York, thus laying a foundation of cards. There would have been no problem with more modest aims in starting from the ground up. Plus, the North American Soccer League had 24 teams at its peak compared to 13 currently for Major League Soccer. The documentary lays the blame at the feet of egotistical star player Giorgio Chinaglia. Right reason but wrong ego. Steve Ross should get the lion's share of credit for the success of the league but also the blame for its downfall.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Interesting doc about the history of soccer in America in the 70's.

Wu Chouin
Wu Chouin

Super Reviewer

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