Pele in the soccer doc

The Next Best Thing

While Allison and Ryan were getting the boot on So You Think You Can Dance (Allison, America? Allison? Did you misdial? While Heidi and her tortured grin go on and on?) another group of stalwart athletes and their fans in Houston were getting an upclose look at dancing with fame in the United States.

Oliver Luck, president of the Dynamo, Houston's own professional soccer team, hosted a get-together at the Angelika Film Center inviting friends of the team to come and watch the documentary Once in a Lifetime, which shows, as Luck would have it, that there was an era in soccer before our present one and that the New York Cosmos were the It boys of their time. The Cosmos, who hired Pele to jack up their attendance figures, were members of the North American Soccer League. It all ultimately crashed and burned, but was an exciting blip in American sports in the 1970s.

Out in the front hallway, hoping to be more than just blips, were Dynamo players Kevin Goldthwaite, Zach Wells, Ryan Cochrane and Stuart Holden (who scored his first professional goal the night before in Colorado), signing autographs for the kids and adults. Wells said all of them had volunteered and were looking forward to the movie.

Which had to be a pretty sobering experience. Here were the Cosmos who at one time filled Giants Stadium in New York, drawing crowds of 77,000 and more, and they went belly up? The Dynamo, needless to say, have never approached those numbers.

By the way, if you're thinking of taking young kids to this movie, forget it. The scenes of actual soccer highlights will be too few to satisfy, and the petty squabbling and backstabbing that is detailed about the management of the Cosmos will leave them yawning. About the only thing that got them laughing over and over again were shots of a bare-assed Shep Messing, the Cosmos goalkeeper, who posed naked for a magazine to earn some extra cash on the side when he was with the team.

Meanwhile, tickets are selling fast for the August 9 double header at Reliant Stadium. The Dynamo play the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer. But the big draw (sorry, Dynamo) is the second part of the bill: Spain's FC Barcelona faces off against Mexico's Club America. The lower bowl at Reliant Stadium has already sold out, according to Luck. -- Margaret Downing

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