Video Vault: Once in a Lifetime (and a Bonus!)

The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
2006: Paul Crowder & John Dower
PG-13: 97 minutes

We are all children of Pele.

In the late 1970s, soccer happened in these mountains for the first time outside of perhaps Penn State. There were no teams to play on, yet I was on the first team I can remember, it was a group of troubled teens in Clearfield that called itself the Status Offenders. We played a seven-game set against the Moshannon Valley Rowdies, who were led by Doug Springer.

Later came the Strikers in Clearfield and soccer teams started popping up in DuBois and Brookville and Philipsburg and West Branch, and before long there was something called The North Star Soccer League as we started scheduling games for teams down to what was called the “8 and Under” level. It must have been around 1980 when I started coaching a bunch of kids sponsored by Clearfield Tire over at the county fairgrounds.

I suppose this synergy might well have germinated as the result of the North American Soccer League, and particularly the New York Cosmos, in those years between 1971 and 1984.

In 1975, the great Brazilian soccer star, Pele, was signed to play with The Cosmos and a grassroots fire was set that blazed across the country, winning the hearts of millions of people just like your author. That professional soccer team is the subject of today’s documentary from ESPN films.

Who can today imagine a time when major football venues were sold out for a regular NASL soccer match? And has there ever been a time since when great players from all over the world came to America to play? Names like Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Carlos Alberto and many others followed Pele to lucrative deals in the U.S.

Warner Communications boss Steve Ross was the money man behind the rise of The Cosmos and the rock star status associated with his team spurred a rapid expansion of the league to 24 teams, not all of which could afford top notch players. Perhaps more importantly, the talent pool thinned and when Ross sold off The Cosmos, the league soon tanked.

The film takes an amusing and nostalgic look behind the scenes in interviews with Shep Messing, who notoriously posed nude for Playgirl, Ricky Davis and the megalomaniacal goal scorer, Giorgio Chinaglia. The team also had a noteworthy party culture that is captured nicely as The Cosmos carouse the Big Apple, Studio 54, during the height of the disco (ack!) era.

Notably missing from the film are current interviews with Pele, who wanted $100,000 to participate, and other stars of the day. But even that doesn’t spoil some outstanding soccer footage and a nice document of a watershed moment in U.S. Soccer history. Young soccer players had no Roberto Clementes, no Jack Lamberts of our own until that moment.

And to think we were there at the time. We call ourselves old-timers now in our 40s and 50s and our children, Pele’s second generation, have moves we never even dreamed of. The kids I’ve coached for almost 30 years are now coaches themselves and the level of American soccer gets better with every generation.

So, if you see former Strikers Eddie Anderson, Collin Howell or Craig Nelson, former Clash (Yes, we were named after the rock band.) team-mates Andy Braid or one of the Barnes Brothers from Woodland, or any of those British boys, Simon and Richie, who used to play for those outstanding Philipsburg United teams, tell ’em I got a great movie for them!

Special bonus VideoVault!

2006: Philip Chidel
Rated R: 93 minutes

Horror movies, for me anyway, have to either be very clever or smartly funny along with scary in order to work.

Today’s blood-letting has a clever idea that treads into the giddily whacked territory of 1985’s splendid “Re-Animator,” but doesn’t quite deliver that kind of goods. A mad scientist has come up with a way to reanimate the dead and he places an advertisement for a lab assistant.

Now, even you and I see the inherent problems here as the ambitious medical student, Adam, (Whoa! Hit me over the head with an ankh already!) ventures to a remote mountain hideaway where he meets Vick (Dean Stapleton).

You can probably figure out that Adam is about to become more akin to Lazarus as we see not only that the serum works, but that Adam is weirdly into it. What ensues is at the least an interesting moral problem as Vick kills Adam over and over and over again. Between fits of gagging and looking away, we almost never stop to think about the fate of poor old “subject one.”

But here is the deal. This film is more disturbing than frightening. It is almost clever enough as it opens up deep spiritual problems and it is nowhere near funny enough. Now if Adam were more of a Wile E. Coyote type who just keeps on getting shellacked and keeps coming back for more, we could go there. But this smallish film goes for the dark and doesn’t carry off those possibilities well enough for it to be anything more than an average shocker.

Remember, here in the Video Vault, it takes a rating of 7 to make the cut. A rating of 5 is “average,” and that’s two cuts below a recommendation. I usually try not to mention anything below a 7, but despite its drawbacks, “Subject Two” was oddly, grotesquely, compelling watching.

Hey! You’re welcome! And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and we’ll post your rantings along with the rest of the Vaultkateers. And until the United States wins a world cup … Enjoy!

Video Vault: Happy Feet
Video Vault: An Inconvenient Truth

Leave a Reply