Navigating U.S. Soccer History One Videotape at a Time

Posted: July 12, 2011 in Football & Cinema, Football Culture, Football History, World Football

I was recently perusing some blog roles/favorite sites and came across Dave Wasser’s historic soccer videotapes, an online catalog of 1000s of soccer videos including the largest consolidated collection of North American Soccer League (NASL) matches. I am a very small-time collector of soccer videos, mostly world cup footage and Germany matches, but was immediately intrigued, and ended up spending the next few hours scrolling through the video catalog sorted by NASL; World Cup; Women’s Soccer; and ‘other international matches’.

After contacting site owner Dave, I thought it would be well worth posting a ‘Q&A’ about his significant collection, passion for the New York Cosmos (and Atari), and thoughts on the historic NASL vs. modern MLS …

TRF: Dave (DW), I read somewhere that your archive of USA soccer videos is bigger than the combined archives of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and the U.S. Soccer Federation. How did your obvious obsession with American soccer and especially the (original) NASL start?

DW: I grew up in New York City, a fan of the NY Cosmos. In the late 1970s the most important things in my life were Atari video games, baseball and the New York Cosmos. I am not so much of a baseball fan these days, and Atari isn’t around any more (is it?) but I still love the Cosmos, even though they went out of business in 1985. Then, 15 years ago, I started collecting videos of the original broadcasts of NASL games. I now have over 350 DVDs of NASL games and actively trade tapes to continually add to it.

TRF: Your site davebrett.com really has a phenomenal collection of soccer match videos that reaches far beyond NASL. How many total soccer recordings do you now have? And, assuming it is not cheap to transfer some of the older footage to DVDs, which match/matches has been the most expensive conversion from old tape to DVD?

DW: I don’t know the exact number of games I have, but it’s in the thousands. Many of the old games were on 3/4 inch U-matic tape, so I bought a used U-matic machine on eBay for $25. I found an elderly man in Illinois who had recorded a ton of games on Beta, so I bought a used Betamax VCR to convert those tapes. Occasionally, I’ll find games on an obsolete video format, then it is a struggle to get them converted. DC Video in California can help with the old formats. Last year I spent $500 to convert a 1968 match between Manchester City and the Atlanta Chiefs. A 9 minute clip courtesy of Dave can be viewed here.

TRF: What is your most requested match tape? The most obscure one in the collection? You’ve shared your ten favorite NASL games, but what about World Cup or Champions League matches?

DW: My most requested DVD is the 1970 World Cup Final, where Brazil beat Italy. That was Pele’s third, and final, world championship. The surprising thing about that match is that it was not even broadcast on American television. (I have the BBC broadcast of it.) I suppose the most obscure game in my collection is the 1973 NASL Final, won by the Philadelphia Atoms. That was only broadcast locally in Philadelphia, but somehow I found someone who had a recording of it. By the way, I love the name of that team. I was disappointed when MLS put a team in Philadelphia and decided not to use the name Atoms…My favorite World Cup match was the USA’s 1994 upset of Colombia. That was the match that showed that American soccer could compete against the best teams in the world (and that losing a match can have fatal consequences)

TRF: Do you follow Major League Soccer? In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference to the original NASL of the 70s? Where will the league be 5 years from now?

DW: Yes, I follow MLS. The big difference between the two leagues is that most MLS teams are playing in new soccer-specific stadiums. The NASL had to play in giant football and baseball stadiums, and that could look terrible. MLS still has a few teams playing in stadiums not designed for soccer. Hopefully in five years there will be new soccer stadiums in Washington and Boston. Another big difference is that the NASL did not have a salary cap, so the rich teams dominated the poor teams. The NASL considered a salary cap, and didn’t implement it. That was a big mistake. I think that European soccer is making the same mistake now letting a few rich teams dominate all the others.

TRF: As a soccer historian, you have followed the evolution of USA soccer. How do you rank the national team’s current competitiveness? And do you think we will ever reach true global dominance?

DW: The United States national team is in about the same place it has been for the past 15 years. We’re a good team, but not a great team. The important thing is that America now has a youth development system in place to produce a number of good players. But America still has not produced a global superstar in the sport. I have to wonder when that will happen.

TRF: You mention the New York Cosmos documentary “Once In A Lifetime” and how it really captured the passion for soccer during that time. Any modern-day, MLS equivalent?

DW: Not really. MLS has a much better business model than the NASL had, but no MLS team has been as popular (or as reviled) as the Cosmos in their time.

TRF: As you may know, TheRealFutbol (TRF) blog in part caters to those new to soccer as well as skeptics who are convinced the real football is the pigskin, American version. And then there are folks who hate soccer because it is much too low scoring. With that said, please recommend a few matches regardless of league or country that are ‘must views’ for those new to the game as well as any nil-nil draws that left you spellbound.

DW: A few years ago, the USA and Argentina played a great scoreless draw in the Meadowlands. The 1999 Women’s World Cup Final between the USA and China was a great game, even though there were no goals scored. But with that said, there are plenty of scoreless draws that are disappointing. MLS has had a huge number of scoreless draws this season. I would prefer to see 0-0 draws result in no points for either team in the standings. Tie games where goals are scored should still result in a point for each team in the standings.

TRF: Finally, we really appreciate you taking time to chat with us. Please let folks know how to best get in touch with you and place a historic soccer video order? Note: I just received my first soccer tape order (1966, 70′ and 74′ World Cup Finals) and am extremely content with value and quality.

DW: People can contact me on my web site www.DaveBrett.com. My email address and phone number are there as well. Thanks!

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  1. [...] of Friend of the Fanatic http://www.davebrett.com/.  For a very recent interview with Dave, see Real Futbol, a new blog from another Friend of the Fanatic,  Jobst Elster in Atlanta, GA.  Share [...]

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