Clowns, Clout and Cosmos Craziness

OK, look:

We've all had our fun with this whole Cosmos thing. It's been great, really, but enough is enough.

First they signed Pele, a man who, although much beloved, is still the guy who Brazilian striker Romario once referred to as "that old retard" and who, frankly, may not be entirely aware of what he's signing but if it involves cookies and a nap he's good to go. I love Mohammed Ali too but I wouldn't hire him to run a hot dog stand.

Then they signed Giorgio Chinaglia as their "International Ambassador", a man for whom travel is problematic due to his being wanted on an INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT issued by Italy for allegedly conspiring with the Mafia to take over Lazio, his former club, and use it to launder money.

They followed this up by signing Cobi Jones, who they identified as an assistant coach with the Galaxy, which is of course entirely true in the "picks up cones and pinneys after practice" sense, but you and I both know that Mr. Arenas' assistant coach is Dave Sarachen and the likelihood that the two of them ever spent two minutes listening to Cobis' theories on football are, well, remote at best.

And of course they topped it all off with the signing of Eric Cantona, a world famous whackjob whose most recent project is the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLDS' ECONOMY (something which, incredibly, the Cosmos failed to mention in their press release) and someone who, since his retirement 14 years ago has shown exactly zero interest in running, coaching or managing a football team.

Why, if you didn't know better you'd swear that the men behind the Cosmos are paying these guys to be, like, shills or something, brought on board strictly for the sake of publicity.

Nonetheless, it was mildly amusing to learn that famed French clown - excuse me, I mean goalkeeper - Fabien Barthez IS OPENLY BEGGING COSMOS FOR A JOB.

Asked what he thinks he could do with the club, he replied: "Maybe I can help out as a goalkeeper coach or so...There are plenty of things I could do. However, I'm not sure yet whether I'd be willing to move to America..."

Which of course makes him perfect for the job; being the GK coach for a team that doesn't exist and. thus, has no goalies, is ideally suited for a guy who doesn't want to be here anyway.

God give me strength.

But just when you thought this whole thing couldn't get any more Kafkaesque, along comes THIS REPORT (which, knowing their high journalistic standards, will undoubtedly appear on MLSRumors any minute now) announcing the Cosmos first player signing:

Headlined Laryea Kingston set to join New York Cosmos, (I swear the Onion is writing this stuff) it goes on:

Laryea Kingston claims he is set to agree a two-year deal with Major League Soccer side New York Comos.

He will undergo medical at the club on Thursday and complete his move for the new MLS season which begins in March. sources claim he will be paid wages of US$ 35,000.

I'll give you a second. I sure as hell needed one.

So OK, since the Cosmos are now set to begin MLS play in March with their new $35k Ghanaian midfielder, maybe it's time to ask the Vince Lombardi question:

"What the hell is going on out there?"

Those of you who are running around be-smitten at the thought of THE COSMOS! COMING BACK!!!! OOOOH AHHHH!!! are hereby excused to go look through your collection of Carlos Alberto cards and videos of Vladislav Bogicevic winning all those Championships that Pele and Chinaglia get the credit for.

(Don't believe me? Ask Allaway)

(Which, come to think of it, is a great name for a BigSoccer feature: Ask Allaway. Not that that cheap bastard Huss will give me cash for it)

(Just kidding Boss; we kid because we love, right? Hello?)

The rest of you are respectfully referred to THIS HIGHLY ILLUMINATING ARTICLE from Money magazine in March of 2007 which introduces one Carl Johnson, Cosmos CEO and head of an ad agency called Anomaly, who seems to be the driving force behind all the current shenanigans.

When you get done checking out where he's coming from, you can then check out WHERE HE IS CURRENTLY in regards to building the Cosmos brand.

Anomaly’s Cosmos venture is among its most ambitious, involving the establishment of a limited liability company, the creation of a 120-page prospectus, the wooing of investors and the recruitment of international soccer icon Pelé.

Johnson, as CEO of the New York Cosmos LLC, is central to the effort and the intellectual property deal, which, for Anomaly, began a year ago with a meeting in New York with Cosmos rights holder Paul Kemsley

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what we're witnessing here is nothing less than cutting-edge marketing. Look on in awe. Or something.

Now the fact is that you and I know that hiring Pele, Cantona, Chinaglia, Jones and ten more like them is nothing but fluff. Serious American soccer fans - which, shockingly, seems not to include most Cosmos freaks - know good and well that the last thing this collection of billboard meat is about is football. Not one of them has ever so much as run a U14 team.

No one in their right mind would invest $40 million in a team, $200 or 300 or 400 million in a stadium and then hand this bunch the keys and say "Build me a winner, boys". Might as well ask Bernie Madoff to invest it for you.

But frankly, they don't give a crap what you and I know or don't know. We're irrelevant. We can sit around here chuckling up our sleeves at this utter rubbish all we want. They're fine with it.

They're after bigger fish.

I suppose I can't actually say absolutely that their target isn't "us", because there's a small (minuscule, infinitesimal) chance that your name is Wilpon.

And the whale that this band of Captain Ahabs fully intend to see flopping on the deck of the Good ship Cosmos with a harpoon stuck in it has "Wilpon" painted on it's side.

It's never been much of a secret that Cohiba Don and his Bosses have been holding talks of one kind or another with the Wilpon family for quite some time now. There are a couple of reasons why, and again they're completely obvious.

The first one is that MLS loves bringing experienced sports entrepreneurs on board. They gave Dave Cheketts a team in Salt Lake when he had next to nothing in the way of a stadium, which is supposed to be the sine qua non of MLS entry. But they wanted his expertise in sports marketing and figured he'd work it out, which of course he did.

Ditto the otherwise puzzling awarding of an ownership to Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff in a market where the league had picked up and left because there was no acceptable building. Wolff didn't have one either, but he was Lew Wolff and they wanted him in.

Mapleleafs and Raptors owners MLSE? Couldn't sign 'em up fast enough, and bringing in Paul Allen and his Seahawks connection, even as a minority owner, made that bid an absolute lock as well.

Dreamers with cash are fine, but someone with an existing ticket sales department, vendor relationships and a first rate, veteran marketing department gets the red carpet thrown out.

And the Wilpons have all of those. In spades. Which makes them exactly the kind of owners MLS wants most.

Secondly, and most important, they already own the site which is considered most desirable - and most likely - for the stadium MLS will need to make this work. Call it Shea, call it Citi, doesn't matter. Don Garber drives by every once in a while and then goes straight home and puts a big smile on Mrs. Garbers' face.

The problem the Cosmos guys have right now is a big one, namely that they need the Wilpons to make this work but, conversely, the Wilpons don't really need them.

And if the Wilpon family calls up Cohiba Don this afternoon and says "stop by and pick up the check" then this whole pile of Cosmos baloney is worth exactly nothing and all the money that their investors have plunked down for this project has been metaphorically flushed down the porcelain appliance.

It's been widely known for some time now that 2013 is the critical date since that's when the MetroBulls exclusivity agreement for the New York metropolitan area expires, and MLS would love to see a team in place to open their 18th season in a blaze of glory. Which means, of course, that time is running out.

Which would tend to explain the sudden explosion of splashy signings of utterly non-serious but widely famous old footballers. Carl Johnson and Anomaly is working feverishly at creating an powerful brand with an irresistible momentum and a sense, at least within the general public, of inevitability, as if it's already a fact:

MLS New York = The Cosmos.

They're trying to make it impossible for the Wilpons, when they make the move everyone thinks and believes they will, to do it without them.

Still, there's a wild card in all of this: a fellow by the name of Beckham.

Is he involved with all of this through his "best friend" Terry Byrne? Byrne vehemently denied it to his new buddy Grant Wahl last week, but lots of people believe he almost certainly is. Others aren't so sure. (Posh and Brooklyn aren't talking.)

If Beckham is on board with the Cosmos, then you'd expect an announcement at some point which would surely seal the deal and almost certainly force the Wilpons' hand.

On the other hand, if he's truly a free agent in this little game then he's holding all the cards. The Wilpon family can bring Becks on board, let him buy the team, come in as his partners, run the stadium and send the Cosmos back to Pepe Pinton to ask for their money back.

This thing is a long ways from over.