A few weeks ago I asked whether there was a soccer documentary as great as the football documentary "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29." I had forgotten about the terrific 2006 picture "Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos."

The coverage of the death of the New York Yankees'  owner George Steinbrenner is what jogged my memory. "Once in a Lifetime" chronicles another team owner, the New York Cosmos' Steve Ross, chairman of the Warner Communications empire, who, in the 1970s, along with Atlantic Records pioneers Ahmet and Nehui Ertegun, put together a staggering roster. For a while Ross made a marginal team -- and in the U.S., a marginal sport -- the center of attention.

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Brazil's legendary Pele, the team's turn-around star, became, on the Cosmos, the best-paid athlete of his time. He and his international-luminary teammates, like Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia,  had their own table on call at Manhattan's Studio 54. Stars from show biz, such as Barbra Streisand, and politics, such as Henry Kissinger, paid heed to the phenomenon -- indeed, Kissinger helped swing the deal that landed Pele. Most important, the Cosmos filled Giants Stadium and arenas across the country.

The Cosmos went bust because of conflict within the team, the feckless expansion of the North American Soccer League, and a poorly thought-out leap into television. But "Once in a Lifetime" makes the team history a giddy ride. Put together in a dynamic, split-screen style that conveys the excitement of 1970s pop culture as well as the virtuosity of its soccer stars, the movie seizes on a moment of real-life hyperbole. Nothing in it is overblown, no matter how outlandish, including the film's title. Going through the Sun clips this morning, I read about Pele's appearance in Baltimore in 1993, promoting the 1994 World Cup. (That's Pele at the event, above.) A working mother pulled her son out of school and drove from Gibbstown, N.J., to the Inner Harbor, for three hours, to see Pele, because, as she told Mike Preston, "This is a big, a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

When it comes to sports documentaries, so is this movie. It's still available on DVD.

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