I've now seen the documentary and read the book, and this is a story that is both fascinating and familiar to sports fans. The film sort of centers around the dream of Steve Ross, president of what became Warner Communications and the Cosmos. It paints him as a selfless and daring pioneer who was desperate to make soccer big in this country. To an extent, he really was that. The book is less charitable to his behavior, painting him as a poor sport who brought Warner to its knees. Ross partied on the company's dime, looked like a playboy genius, fouled things up with a few bad decisions, and got out with an enormous bank account. Hey, wouldn't we all love to do that? Except it cost thousands of people at Warner and Atari their jobs. Many American soccer players' dreams of playing in their domestic pro league were crushed. I hope Major League Soccer executives read this as their bible, and don't let history repeat itself. In the end, you have to feel sorry for the fans and players, who hoped in vain their success would last forever. But those few good years were pretty sweet, and it was entertaining to learn what happened behind the scenes after years of wondering.
ESPN Classic has been playing the movie made of this book. The two complement each other perfectly.
The story is of the NY Cosmos, a star-laden team that flamed in the late 70s and early 80s. They routinely drew sellout crowds to Giants Stadium, led by such stars as Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, Alberto. Then a few years later, the team (and the league) disappeared. But what a ride, a hysterical story that is told quite well by Newsham. He interviewed many people (except Pele who reportedly wanted big $$$).
Book is weighed down by Newsham talking about what was happening in the country and world at the time.
But the story is so good. Even if you are NOT a soccer fan, and I am not, it is worth reading.
I loved reading about the behind the scenes stories that made the New York Cosmos such an exceptional NASL organisation. As a young kid, I remember when the NASL was still around. Unfortunately, after the 1981 season, the NASL faced financial challenges. I wish that all the soccer leagues would merge with the current NASL right now just as the AFL and NFL merged into one league making the NFL we enjoy today. In 1980, the Seattle Sounders had their best regular season. Every time the New Cosmos came to play them, I knew that they were special. I certainly hope that the Cosmos can come back to the level of prominence they had from the 1970s to the early 1980s.
Don't get me wrong this is a fantastic read but the errors and misinterpretations just got to me in certain parts. You know, when all you see on the back jacket is a single review by Kirkus Reviews, you are usually in trouble. This is no different.
So just to give you an example of misinterpretation the author goes on about the "impromptu parties and BBQs" at the big 77,691 in attendance FtL Strikers game vs. the Cosmos. What he refers to is actually tailgating and that was already well established at American sporting events esp. football (NY Giants and NY Jets games to get local on that score) but also at Cosmos games. I mean, it can't really be impromptu if you haul a BBQ set in your car to the game, can it?
Factually (and I'll probably bore some of you with this), here are just a few examples where he got it all wrong. Claimed Dallas folded in 1981 (p. 201) but it was actually in '82 which he does mention 13 pages later. So there's a weird contradiction. Also, there were 21 (not 20) teams in '81 (4 folded and one new one, the Calgary Boomers, was added).
Another part, he went on about Cosmos' defender Jeff Durgan stopping vaunted Dallas striker Klaus Toppmuller (well, he was no Karl-Heinz Granitza with only 7 goals all season).
The stuff on Steve Ross and Warner Bros. involvement, the players' off-field activities, the intrigue signing Pele, etc., are spot on. I have no idea why he devoted time to Cruyff playing three exhibition games with the Cosmos as it seems only Europeans find that of interest. Loads of "stars" drop in and play exhibition games over here. It barely registered really among NASL fans.
Also, hate to tell the guy but Edmonton is not in "America" (p. 252).
The prologue mentioning the famous 1-0 win by the USA over England is completely irrelevant to the growth of the NASL and the Cosmos. I would think a story on the impact of televising the 1966 World Cup into the U.S. market would have better served his chapter on the 1967 pro soccer league startups in the U.S.
There's so much left out. Although the USSF could not snag the right to host the 1986 World Cup, he fails to mention Canada qualifying for those Finals had a lot to do with the NASL. The Cosmos, in fact, had quite a few Canadians throughout the years. Some of who he mentions but not in specific connection with the development of domestic North American players.
The background given to the time period is relevant when focused on New York events like the Son Of Sam killings, city budget crisis, etc., but not so much on Elvis dying or President Gerald Ford's trouble.
The book is sort of like the Cosmos themselves--greatness and complete misses in equal measure.
What I would have liked to see was more on Cosmos players like the Carlos Alberto spitting incident vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps, a mention of the good Iranian defender Andranik Eskandarian (after all the hilarious Turkish goalkeeper Erol Yasin got a few mentions) whose US-born son Alecko is now an MLS star and just a more insightful look into a few more players of note.
I haven't yet watched the film (just ordered it), but was born in 1970 in NJ, grew up playing soccer and becoming an ardent soccer fan, probably because of all the Cosmos games I went to see (my family had season tickets from the time they moved to the Meadowlands). I was at the Pele farewell game, got to meet the players outside their locker room (was interesting being an 8 year old and seeing pro soccer players smoking and drinking beers right after playing) and was a massive fan of Chinaglia and Neeskeens. This book brought back tons of memories, but also provided great context and backstory on the team. As a pre-teen, I certainly didn't know anything about the ownership, the personality conflicts or the troubles the NASL had (besides seeing vast sections of empty seats at most of the Cosmos away games). This was a entertaining and informative read filled with funny anecdotes and back stories on the rise and fall of the Cosmos and the NASL.