The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon – where one happens upon some obscure piece of information, often an unfamiliar word or name, and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.
That’s how I learned about the New York Cosmos, a team I would grow to love.
I was late to the soccer party. My high school didn’t have a male or female soccer team, and even the city’s recreational leagues stopped youth soccer after 10 years of age. I couldn’t imagine taking soccer seriously.
It wasn’t until I lived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras during World Cup Qualifying and their first World Cup appearance in 28 years that I learned of the passion involved with the Beautiful Game. I saw an entire country shut down for 90 minutes, followed by pandemonium and everyone running through the streets. I watched grown men cry with gratitude. It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced before, and I was hooked.
When I returned home to my native Utah, Real Salt Lake was making their historic run through CONCACAF Champions League, after winning MLS Cup in 2009. Utah seemed to have also caught the bug as well while I was gone. I was going to school at the time, and was privileged to have some international roommates. An Irishman, who grew up in Manchester, England before coming to The States in his early teens, and a Mexican who ended up in New York in his youth and would grow up in the Bronx.
One day, the Irishman came bursting in elated, he quickly opened up his bag while stammering, “Dude, Jordan, check out what I found at Ross!” and out came the classic, green and white, Pele number 10, Cosmos jersey.
“Can you believe it?!”
And my response.
“Who are the Cosmos?”
And so it began. Both of my roommates quickly began recanting the Cosmos’ history, and I immediately began wondering how I had never heard of this team. Once in a Lifetime was our next Netflix binge. Afterward I was compelled to look up the team even further, and lo and behold, the Cosmos were about to make a comeback.
I couldn’t get over the irony of it all, and immediately began following the team with intrigue. There were no shortage of news articles and rumors surrounding the team and their early moves. The Cosmos were like nothing I had ever seen before, their rise to greatness happened so fast and was over so soon it seemed like something out of a fairytale. At least this time I had caught them at the beginning. It was easy to hope for their success. I figured the Cosmos and their historic brand were a lock to be the second NYC, MLS franchise, and I began to look forward to seeing the club in person as they played RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium.
We all know how that went (or at least have some theory about it).
But then my intrigue grew even more. Not only were the Cosmos easily the most historic brand in American soccer history, but they were now the ultimate underdog as they embarked to do things their own way. Along with that, they became the face of a movement wanted by many, for the U.S. to start playing the World’s Game the World’s way. The Cosmos soon after announced Gio Savarese as head coach. All I could think of was a Michael Bradley interview I had watched, where he talked about going to Metrostars practice with his dad, being asked to scrimmage with the team, and always wanting to be on Gio’s team, “because no matter what team he was on, Gio’s team always won.” Gio soon filled the roster with players, some who would make the most of a second chance, hidden gems that I had never heard before, and then Senna, to Raul, to Arango, with a brief dash of Kranjčar.
And win they did, again in storybook fashion. From thrilling high scoring contests, to stoppage time goals, to a dominating victory of Red Bulls, to beating NYCFC in PKs after a raucous affair. The Cosmos were a joy to watch and a fun team to follow. They played exciting soccer while everyone else played a more slow and physical style. Their league runs were dominant, their international trips were captivating, and even their friendlies seemed to mean just a little bit more, for both teams on the field. The rise of the Cosmos, along with the NASL and USL, helped see the Open Cup slowly change from a reserve and academy tournament to the soccer version of March Madness, and the Cosmos were one of the favorite Cinderellas.
Then just like that, the clock struck twelve. The Cosmos run came to a screeching halt, again. Mistakes were made, maybe we were all a little misled, and maybe the outcome was inevitable. But, the most heartbreaking part of the story is the Cardiac Cosmos, Our Boys in Green, wouldn’t have a chance to settle it on the field. The similarities in the two incarnations is discouraging, the recent news of the club disheartening, but once again it seems the Cosmos have gone almost as quick as they came.
The irony of it all is fascinating. The story too good to be true. For now, we all have to wait and wonder what comes next for the club and the brand, and when, but I can’t help but wonder, like with all storybook endings, twice in a lifetime? Nah, the third time’s the charm.