Thanks to a loyal and rabid New York Cosmos fan base, open letters to the United States Soccer Federation are coming in heavy.
Forgive me for being a little blunt at the start here, but I’m writing to you because I don’t want my favorite soccer team to fold for the second time in my life.
Let me take a moment to introduce myself to you. My name is Peter Schwartz, writer/podcast host for Elite Sports NY as well as other distinguished media outlets in the New York/Metropolitan area. To be completely transparent, I’m also the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.
Over the last few weeks, your organization has received a number of letters from local politicians and community groups urging you to reconsider your decision to strip the NASL of its Division Two status for the 2018 season. I’m sure all of you are extremely busy with some other things going on with U.S. Soccer, so you might not have gotten around to reading all of them just yet.
As a courtesy, I’ve attached the letters in the slideshow below:
I think it’s great that all of these people took the time to express their concern over your decision and how it impacts the Cosmos, the league, as well as the community as a whole. As you know, the Cosmos spent the first four years of the reboot era on Long Island before relocating to MCU Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn this past season.
As a Long Island resident, my commute to home games increased from about 15 minutes to anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half or so depending on the Belt Parkway traffic, but it was clear that to me by the end of the season that this was the right move. There was a buzz about the franchise this season and you could sense it right away. There were many fans that walked the Coney Island boardwalk wearing Cosmos gear. The crowds, for the most part, at MCU Park were very lively and the community embraced a franchise that has won eight NASL titles.
All of the people that sent you letters made some very strong points, but I’d like to give you my side of the story since my connection to this team is two-fold …
I fell in the love with the Cosmos during the summer of 1977 when my family and I were vacationing in upstate New York. I became friendly with some kids from another family that we met there and they introduced me to the sport of soccer, specifically the Cosmos. That year, the Cosmos became a phenomenon drawing huge crowds to Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands.
I began to follow the team on television as well as in the newspapers was instantly hooked.
Pele, the greatest soccer player in history, was in his third and final season with the Cosmos and went out a champion as the Cosmos won Soccer Bowl ’77 in defeating Seattle, 2-1. I celebrated with my new friends as we watched the game on television and I wondered what it would be like to one day to actually attend a game.
When we returned home after the summer, my father surprised me one night when he came home from school. Somebody that he worked with gave him two tickets to see an international friendly match between the Cosmos and China. I remember that it was a 1-1 tie and the late Giorgio Chinaglia scored the only goal of the game for the Cosmos.
Over the next few years, I went to many more Cosmos games with my family. It was so much fun because the Cosmos were so good and the experience of going to a game was second to none. I can’t stress to you have sad and demoralizing it was to me when the Cosmos and the original North American Soccer League folded following the 1984 season.
As each year went by without the Cosmos, I never stopped thinking about them. I saved a lot of the Cosmos merchandise that I collected when I was a child. I have a few programs, yearbooks pins, and other keepsakes, but there was always the hope that one day the Cosmos would return.
It took 29 years, but my team would eventually be brought back to life.
I was very excited when I learned the Cosmos would be returning to the modern day North American Soccer League in 2013. Almost three decades after they last played a competitive match, my goal was to work for them. Having established myself in the New York sports media, I reached out to the team to see if there would be a role that would be a fit for me.
As it turns out, I was hired as public address announcer which was and still is a huge thrill for me and a big responsibility because there was a time when the late great Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard also announced for the Cosmos. Over these last five years, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to introduce the likes of Cosmos greats like Pele and Shep Messing while also announcing so many great moments for the current Cosmos including two NASL Finals that took place in Cosmos Country.
Another great thing about the last five years has been the ability for me to share this experience with my wife Sheryl and our sons Bradley and Jared. The biggest thrill for me was seeing the boys celebrating on the field after the 2015 Soccer Bowl and having the opportunity to bring them to the locker room for the championship celebration. When I was in the press box, my family was in the stands and it brought things full circle for me because of the many great memories I had going to Cosmos games as a kid.
But now, the future of the Cosmos and NASL is very much in doubt.
I’m asking you to please reconsider your decision not solely based on the aforementioned story of one sole fan, but because of all the other personal stories like mine that show just how much this team means to so many soccer fans in this area. Granted, we have the Red Bulls and NYCFC in Major League Soccer, but second division soccer is also very important to keep alive.
For the last five years, the Cosmos have been a terrific product and a great example of family affordable entertainment. The fan enjoys so much great access to the players and now that the team is housed Brooklyn, going to the Cosmos is more than just going to a game. It’s really a chance for a family to enjoy a visit to a great community and to create memories that will last a lifetime.
The New York Cosmos has also afforded many people the opportunity to earn a living in the sports world. For me personally, it was so wonderful to get to meet and work with so many great people these last five years. I’ve made friends for life and you can’t it a price tag on that.
Don’t pull the plug!
Your job is to grow U.S. Soccer. Work with the NASL and it’s member clubs to find some common ground and to figure out a way to make this work. Grow the league and create a solid foundation for soccer in our great country.
Resident of Cosmos Country since 1977