"It was a traveling circus. Everybody speaking a different language, everybody with a different sort of personal assistant or trainer tagging along to help as a translator and to help with their various needs...it was an enormous entourage wherever you went and it was entertaining." - Lawrie Mifflin
New York, NY—With the new year in session, a plethora of articles have surfaced regarding the New York Cosmos. From Cobi Jones joining the Cosmos to Grant Wahl's Sports Illustrated interview, the Cosmos have been in the news.
The one thing older Cosmos fans are concerned about is that their beloved team is being viewed as a brand. They're also concerned that the Cosmos will be recognized more for their current/future merchandise than their history. And now with the rumors of David Beckham possibly purchasing the team, some are worried that this second coming of the New York Cosmos may be a laughingstock.
My reply to these Cosmos fans is, "Abandon your worries because the New York Cosmos organization is serious and intent on becoming the 20th team in Major League Soccer for the 2013 MLS season."
I've been to the New York Cosmos office and have interacted with the organization's excellent Management Team, Vice Chairman Terry Byrne, and Chairman/CEO Paul Kemsley. In addition, I've also met with some of the parents/players from the Cosmos Academy East and their Director Giovanni Savarese.
The common denominator that everyone has that I've observed is that they're proud.
Proud that they're involved and committed to being part of the New York Cosmos revival. Proud that they've been able to live up to mission statement by establishing two Cosmos Youth Academies. Proud that after 25 years after the team faded away, people globally remember and sincerely care for the New York Cosmos. Did I mention that that they've accomplished this in less than six months?
The New York Cosmos isn't a brand. A brand is something you drink, eat out of a bag, or use to wash your clothing. Would you consider the Brooklyn Dodgers to be a brand? Or how about baseball's New York Giants before they moved to California? I don't think so. Believing that all both former New York baseball teams are name brands is like saying that Chester Cheetah is equivalent to a lion.
The New York Cosmos is a proud American Soccer tradition. Traditions may fade but they're never completely dead. While some traditions are obviously visible some are hidden in our hearts. As long as someone educates another about the New York Cosmos, the Cosmos soccer tradition will never die.
In order for the Cosmos tradition to be preserved, information has to be handed down by someone who was part of that era. Luckily for me, I know plenty of Cosmos fans from that era who wishes to share their story. However, I'm going to focus on one individual.
An individual who used to cover the New York Cosmos in their heyday. He's an individual who traveled with the Cosmos and recalls the good/bad times of the team. An individual who was generous enough to lend me the photographs he took of the New York Cosmos in their heyday.
His name is Mario Ramos. A photographer by trade, Mario worked for El Diario de la Prensa de Honduras when he covered the New York Cosmos in their heyday. Now working Public Relations for the Consulate General of Honduras in New York City, Mario sat down with me to talk about his fantastic experience of covering the Cosmos.
"It was a fantastic time! I followed the Cosmos from the beginning to the end. The thousands and thousands of diverse fans at the old Giants Stadium is an experience I'll never forget. From seeing Pelé make his Cosmos debut to the New York Cosmos final game against Lazio, I was there and I lived the New York Cosmos experience in ways fans can only dream about", enthusiastically recalled Mario.
"Not only was the team fantastic, so was the organization. The way we were treated (reporters) was simply phenomenal. During the Cosmos championship years, the organization covered food and travel expenses for us smaller and immigrant publications. From having our meals at Tavern on the Green and 21 Club to the nights at Studio 54, the organization did everything in making us feel that we were part of the New York Cosmos."
When asked for some of the greatest games that he has ever covered, Mario quickly ratted out his answer, "Pele's debut game in '75, The '77 Playoff game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers where over 77,000 fans were in attendance and Pelé's final game against his old team Santos FC."
Throughout our discussion, Mario pointed out that the difference between the NASL and MSL is technology and American player development.
Mario believes that a lot of American players at the time were never given their fair opportunity to demonstrate their soccer skills and he appreciates how the MLS has made it a point to enhance their Player Development.
With the influx of cable channels and the internet, today's soccer fans have an easier time of following other leagues. However, he feels Major League Soccer tries too hard to market their league when they should simply allow the game speak for itself.
"The best way for MLS to market their league is to let the game do the talking. Today's soccer fans are smarter and have more access to follow other leagues throughout the world. Back in the NASL days, fans didn't have that type of access and soccer wasn't popular as it is today. One of the reasons the NASL was successful during that time period was because the league had charismatic players and the games produced more goals", stated Mario.
With MLS signing world class players for the past few years, Mario believes the league will continue to improve as long as they allow their American players to develop their own sense of game awareness and flow.
Now the eventual return of the New York Cosmos as the 20th MLS team, Mario is happy and impressed with what the Cosmos has done in short time. For fans who are 35 years or older, he believes this is fantastic news for them because they now have the wonderful opportunity to share their stories to the new generation of Cosmos fans who have never witnessed America's greatest Soccer Team perform.
You can view more of Mario's photos on Facebook at Covering Soccer.
Cesar Diaz covers soccer for Latino Sports. You may follow him on Facebook at Covering Soccer and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer and @LatinoSports143. Please email your questions and comments to Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org.