Once in a Lifetime cover

STUDIO: Miramax Home Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
• "Stories of Pele" SportsCentury interviews
• Deleted Scenes
• Highlights from New York Cosmos games

The Pitch

love soccer! Right?"

"Yes, sonny. Once upon a dream."

The Humans

Steve Ross, Marv Albert, Franz Beckenbauer

The Nutshell

Despite being the sport of the
world, soccer/football has never really managed to capture the American
imagination. At least not to the degree that basketball, baseball, or our
version of football have. But once upon a time, decades ago, there was a
professional soccer team called the New York Cosmos which seized the attention
of the nation, rising to prominence without being prepared for it, thanks to
the celebrity and skill of a simple guy named Pelé.

Merry Crotchmas

The Lowdown

When you
think of soccer, it’s a safe bet that "rock star" isn’t the first
analogy to leap to mind. Sure, professional athletes tend to score big on the
celebrity scale, but pro soccer in
America has never seized the same
mindshare that our baseball, basketball, and oddly-named football do. Nevertheless,
in a Lifetime
is a documentary about the excesses, fast living, and fame
of the New York Cosmos, a group of athletes that no one expected to rise beyond
playing for their average audiences of fifty.

The chart
of the team’s flameout dominates the second half of the film, and offers plenty
of human drama to keep the audience interested, but it’s the first half that
really sells the piece. One thing I love about documentaries is their ability
to frame differently something you’ve long held in your head, or to expand on a
notion you’ve been satisfied to leave emaciated. Once in a Lifetime spends
its first half in exposition and recollection on the foundation of a national
soccer league and the support of its franchise. It focuses on the Cosmos, and
ties into the live-fast-die-young tone of the second half, but its subject is much
broader than the thesis.

the business aspects of league foundation comes a parallel interest in the
sport of money. The corporate environment birthed the soccer league, and the
adoption of Pelé into the American fold was effected solely by a rich deal
offered by Steve Ross.It’s almost as entrancing to witness, second-hand, the
maneuvering required to make a commercially viable sport endeavor as to watch
the game footage from the more spectacular matches.

What a horrible time to run out of innuendo.

Once in a Lifetime is quickly-paced and never dull.
Various subjects interviewed mention the reason they like soccer is because it
never stops for interminable timeouts, field changes, or coach consultations.
It’s a kinetic sport, and the filmmakers emulate the energy in their
production, as with their previous success Dogtown and Z-Boys. As with that
film, here they’ve uncovered the myriad layers surrounding cultural events as
recalled by their witnesses; and, wisely, historical accuracy is less important
to them than a well-told anecdote, and they let their interviewees guide the

For just
a moment in American history, we were seized by a fever similar to that which
builds up in most every other country in the nation every four years. The
athleticism shown on the soccer fields where the New York Cosmos played
inspired fans and admirers, but through some combination of culture and
celebrity, we just couldn’t stay interested. Fortunately, Once in a Lifetime has
plenty to keep the potential audience absorbed, and you won’t find it caught in
any scandals with loose women, hard drugs, and tipped cows. Not until New
Year’s, anyway.

…and continuing this review’s theme of erogenous zones…

The Package

obvious but well-chosen bonus is the inclusion of several game segments
featuring Pelé and the Cosmos, including clips from the 1980 Soccer Bowl
championship between the Cosmos and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers; the 1981
Soccer Bowl against the Chicago Sting, and a bunch of takes from Pelé’s final
game in the league in 1977.

There is
also a single deleted scene, featuring an amusing story about a Haitian soccer
team who jumped immigration, and a series of SportsCentury interviews about
Pelé’s life and achievements. No, the guy ain’t dead; he’s just slightly more
reclusive than Thomas Pynchon.

7.1 out of 10