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Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos Paperback – 11 May 2006
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In 1971, Warner Brothers bought a local football team, the New York Cosmos. In 1975 the club signed a three-year deal with Pele, the greatest player the game had ever known.
In 1971, Warner Brothers bought a local football team, the New York Cosmos. In 1975 the club signed a three-year deal with Pele, the greatest player the game had ever known. More big name signings would follow: the German superstar Franz Beckenbauer, the charismatic Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia and Brazil's 1970 World Cup winning captain, Carlos Alberto. Almost overnight, the Cosmos became the hottest ticket in town. Celebrities like Robert Redford, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg attended games. Cosmos players were mainstays of the hedonistic club scene at Studio 54. Set against the backdrop of a city on the edge, Once In A Lifetime is much more than a football book. It is a vivid evocation of the mania that surrounded the Cosmos at the height of their powers in 1977 and the explosion in new forms of popular culture, the debauchery of Studio 54 and the razzmatazz and conspicuous expenditure that surrounded them. It is a story that embraces millionaires, superstars, gangsters, groupies, glamour, power struggles, alcoholic excess, drugs, and full-on fistfights. It also has some of the greatest football players ever to grace the game.See all Product description
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Newsham's writing at its best conveys the excitiment and pressures of the matches of football and conjures up many of the great personalities who were associated with the club.
Is Chelsea the new Cosmos? overspending and paying exhorbitant wages, which then the other teams try to follow like lambs to the slaughter. Then financial wake up call.
The Premiership chairman should read this and take note.
But for me Newsham at the very least produces the first draft of history on an amazing story; and at best details much fascinating background: the very early beginnings of 'soccer' in the States; the role played by Steve Ross, Head of Warner Bros, in the development and funding of the Cosmos; ambitions for the founders of the NASL for the sport in America; the early days of computer arcade games and the part they played in the Cosmos story; the locker room atmosphere as the Cosmos became a soccer supergroup; the role played by recession and the lack of decent TV coverage in the Cosmos' decline.
To address the one really negative review the book has had here: Chinaglia, one of the Cosmos' superstars, the man credited with dismissing coaches like some men dismiss clumsy waiters - as far as I know he is still alive and the laws of libel allow only so much licence. To in any way darken his reputation or traduce him would be to lay yourself and your publisher open to serious litigation - and the book was probably edited as much by lawyers as it was by anyone at Newsham's publishing house. So calling for further exploration of 'the dark heart' of the Cosmos - and there is much in the book already that isn't exactly complimentary about Chinaglia - is to misunderstand the way books are produced.
No - I say this is a terrific book, one which every football fan will want to read. Why 'soccer' has never taken off in America is the big question behind Once In A Lifetime. Whereas Europe had a century to develop the game, in the US the Cosmos, their owners Warner Bros, and the NASL went from more or less a standing start to developing a side that could take on national teams (Argentina, for instance) and hold their own against them within a decade of Steve Ross pitching in.
In Europe we see football teams as 'clubs', as part of the community; in the States the teams were always 'franchises'.
Perhaps the Premier League is now in danger of becoming an association of similar franchises - perhaps English PL supporters will feel like they are looking into a crystal ball, or even a mirror, when they read Once In A Lifetime.
Whether the Yanks will ever take to 'soccer' remains to be seen.
I don't think Becks on his own for LA Galaxy can can do what Pele, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, and Dennis Tueart and others did for the game in America.
Crowds of 70,000, celebrities like Jagger, Streisand and Redford in the stadium, subtle adaptations of the offside rule, play-offs (England never had those in the 70s), and win/lose as the only outcome to matches all demonstrate just what the Cosmos, Warner Bros, and the NASL did for the game, not just in America, but globally.
Gavin Newsham is - in my opinion - a fine writer.
I couldn't put this book down.
And I hope his book sells by the shedload.
It's a great read.
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