Last week, while browsing the internet/Twitter, I happened upon the New York Cosmos website – specifically the season ticket page. Or season ticket deposit page (details). The rebirth of the Cosmos – who will begin play in the recently re-booted North American Soccer League this August – has been of interest to me, but I hadn’t actually considered buying tickets until that moment.
I certainly intended to buy tickets when the Cosmos eventually (inevitably?) joined MLS, complete with an upgraded roster and new stadium. What I hadn’t really considered was watching the “new” Cosmos in their infancy, playing games at Hofstra University located well
west east of the city. Yet after a few minutes spent thinking about it, including a glance at the schedule (seven of eight games played on Saturday night – convenient), the drive (roughly 40 minutes from Brooklyn), and the price ($96 for eight games) I decided to submit a deposit.
When the Cosmos competed in NASL the first time around, during their glory years in the 1970’s and into the early 80’s, I wasn’t alive. Most of what I know about the original version of the franchise I learned from the 2006 documentary Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, or similarly themed articles written through the years. The first American soccer event of any consequence that I remember is the 1994 World Cup. The first serious professional league I knew was Major League Soccer. Point being, I didn’t buy Cosmos tickets out of a sense of nostalgia. This will be the first time I’ve ever seen the franchise in any form.
I’m not a Cosmos fan from the old days, and I don’t intend to be a “fan” in any meaningful sense for the modern incarnation of the club. Obviously buying a season ticket signals my desire to be involved, but I really just want to observe a significant story for American soccer as a whole. My interest in the Cosmos is the same as my interest in the Red Bulls and MLS, or the US Men’s National Team – I want the game of soccer to thrive in the United States at every level, and I’m generally intrigued by its development. I think August 3rd, 2013, the date of the first Cosmos home game, is a significant milestone in the larger narrative of American soccer. I’m more interested in that angle than I am in wrapping myself in green and gold.
In the week since buying tickets, after thinking about it further, I’m glad I did for a number of reasons. I don’t anticipate the quality of soccer being excellent, though that’s obviously not the point. Fifty years from now, stories of Messi, Xavi and the rest will ping around Catalonian nursing homes at a mesmerizing, tiki-taka pace. It’s unlikely that old folks in Hempstead or Queens will discuss these Cosmos at all. Rather than an opportunity to see world-class soccer, the Cosmos rebirth represents an opportunity for fans to watch an old giant slowly come back to life. The Cosmos aren’t in the market for superstar talent yet. They won’t be battling the Red Bulls for New York City supremacy, or raising the MLS Cup. It’s relatively easy to envision the franchise doing all of those things in the not-so-distant future, once restored. If the Cosmos are destined to once again become an American soccer juggernaut, a fully armed and operational battleship, consider this season an opportunity to see the behemoth while it’s still under construction in the drydock.
We’ll have to settle for limited buzz right now, but this is the beginning of New York City’s first modern, large-scale soccer rivalry. Initially it’ll be a battle for headlines and attention amongst two teams in different leagues – neither of which actually calls the city home (yet). It’s undeniably a culturally significant time for the game in New York. Two professional teams will attract greater interest – there are certainly NYC residents who will connect with the reborn Cosmos in a way they were never able to with the Red Bulls. Likewise, there will be long time New York Red Bulls fans that reject the Cosmos altogether, perceive the fans as superficial hipsters and resent any interest the upstart franchise generates. All of that is good for soccer in New York, in my opinion. And as I’ve discussed previously, what’s good for the game in this city figures to be good for American soccer as a whole.
More immediately and practically? A season ticket costs $96. I’ll be sitting on bench seats behind the goal, alongside the supporter’s section. Close enough to hear the songs and chants coming together game by game without having to partake, which is ideal. I love the view from behind the end line and I’m genuinely excited about getting to see regular soccer at a venue other than Red Bull Arena. I’ll absolutely still attend Red Bulls games. The MLS team will be the only show in town from March through July, and will offer a higher level of soccer against superior competition. It’s just nice to have options. Six of the seven home games begin at 7PM on Saturday night. The drive is reasonable. And I’ll be seeing on the few American club soccer teams that’s ever truly mattered beyond a particular city or region. Watching that franchise return after lying dormant for decades – playing actual games, rather than simply inspiring documentaries, blog posts and screen printers. Finally back on the field.
Sitting in the stadium on August 3rd for the home opener, I’ll probably be wondering what the game means to the various figures connected to the team. What, if anything, will it mean to Pele? Don Garber? To David Hirshey and Michael Davies? Both were prominently involved in the 2006 Cosmos documentary – Hirshey being the journalist most closely associated with the original franchise, Davies the producer – both are still major voices in American soccer media. What would it have meant to the late Georgio Chinaglia, who’s larger than life personality, technical brilliance and lifestyle of excess essentially made him the human embodiment of the 1970’s Cosmos?
A one-time American soccer monster is coming back to life. Who knows, maybe the Cosmos will reach their 1970’s apex again. Maintain it. Maybe, supported by a stable league structure and growing national soccer culture, they’ll exceed it. Propel soccer to a new level in New York City. Bolster NASL. Enhance MLS. Build a massive new stadium and attract international stars. Or maybe not – maybe they’ll never get out of NASL, flounder and collapse, and go back to being a historical footnote. However the story plays out in the coming years, for a miniscule fee and a short weekly drive, I’ll be able to say I was there when it all started again. Considering that, buying a season ticket was a no brainer. I’m looking forward to August.
*Photo from jurvetson’s Flickr