Tag Archives: New York Cosmos

Remembering Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett — one of the entertainment world’s leading executives in the 1960s and ’70s, and a powerful influence in everything from Batman to the New York Cosmos — died last Monday night, at 86. The cause was heart failure, at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Emmett was a longtime resident of Westport, while he built his career in movies and sports marketing.

He began his career working for his uncle in a family-run comic book publishing company that owned the rights to a number of superheroes, including Batman and Superman.

Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett

Emmett founded the Licensing Corporation of America, which expanded from licensing comic book and cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird into sports marketing, leading to partnerships with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

In 1964 Emmett joined Warner Communications — now Time Warner — and was named president, under chairman Steve Ross.

Emmett oversaw great growth in the company’s music and movie divisions during the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the company established the original New York Cosmos, he was instrumental in signing Brazilian star Pelé. The franchise went on to draw more than 70,000 fans each game.

Emmett’s close friendship with Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams led to his meeting Larry Lucchino, a Williams protégé. Emmett helped Lucchino’s teams — the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox — set home attendance records.

Emmett’s love of sports led him to partner with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1970’s. They worked to develop the Special Olympics into one of the most important charitable institutions in the world. Emmett served in a number of capacities, including as a member of its international board of directors

Family and friends in Westport remember Emmett for his charismatic personality, infectious enthusiasm for life, and his outspoken nature. In recent years, Emmett derived great pleasure from the success of his children and grandchildren.

Emmett is survived by his sons Steven and Andrew, and daughters-in-law Deborah, Marlene, and Geri. He leaves behind 6 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Martha and son Paul.

A public celebration of Emmett’s life will be held at Fenway Park this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Special Olympics.

To express condolences and/or make donations, click here.

special olympics

Giorgio: The Sequel

Earlier this month, I wrote about the day in 1977 when Giorgio Chinaglia and the New York Cosmos played an exhibition soccer match at Green’s Farms Academy.

Carlos Almeida posted a comment, noting that the Cosmos played on Beachside Avenue not once, but twice.

The 2nd time was nearly 6 years later. In the spring of 1983, the world-famous NASL team returned to Westport. This time their opponent was the University of Connecticut — with a goalkeeper from Danbury named Carlos Almeida.

Two years earlier, the Huskies had won the national championship. This time, Carlos recalls, “the Cosmos took it easy on us.”

By 1983, superstars Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto were retired. But Giorgio Chinaglia — chain-smoking, moody, and as electrifying a goal scorer as ever — was there.

Carlos sent a few photos of that day. It was his last game for UConn. What a way to go out, he says — against his favorite pro team.

And it all happened on a tiny field, tucked away behind a small private school in Westport.

The Cosmos (blue) pose for a photo with the University of Connecticut. Giorgio Chinaglia is just out of the frame; he was next to #8 Vladislav Bogicevic (first row, far right). Carlos Almeida is the goalkeeper in the front row, wearing yellow.

University of Connecticut head coach Joe Morrone gives a halftime talk to his team at Green's Farms Academy. Note the fans hanging from a tree on the left.

Giorgio

It was a surreal scene, one I’ve never forgotten. And it’s tough to describe, because it sounds like I’m making the whole thing up.

Giorgio Chinaglia, in his prime.

In the late 1970s, the New York Cosmos were the most famous franchise in the entire sports world. A pro soccer team with superstars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto — and Giorgio Chinaglia — they were glamour personified.

Mick Jagger, Henry Kissinger and a host of other boldface names followed them like groupies.

They sold out the 77,000-seat Meadowlands for every game — and did the same in Russia, China, South Africa, or anywhere else on the planet they played.

On November 20, 1977 — a couple of months after winning the NASL championship — they showed up at Green’s Farms Academy.

They were part of a “Soccer Spectacular.” There were clinics, a couple of games involving private schools — and the Cosmos, playing an exhibition match.

They didn’t just wander in off I-95, of course. Jay Emmett — the #2 man at Warner Communications, which owned the club — lived a mile away, on Prospect Road. The club’s PR director was Mark Brickley, a Staples grad just 3 years out of Union College.

Still, it would have been like the New York Giants showing up this weekend to toss the football around.

I don’t remember much about that game. But what I do remember is Giorgio Chinaglia — the team’s leading scorer, an international star, a man who broke Italy’s heart when he left to play in America — weaving elegantly and effortlessly up and down the Green’s Farms Academy field.

Wearing sweatpants.

He never took off his warmups. He played the entire match that way.

And before the game, at halftime, and after, Giorgio Chinaglia stood on the sidelines, smoking cigarettes.

Pele (left) and Giorgio Chinaglia. When the Brazilian retired in 1977, the Italian took over the club's limelight.

He was not trying to show disdain for the fans, the setting or the game. That was simply Chinaglia’s way. It was the rest of the league — some of his teammates, even — hated him. Even as he drew attention to the Cosmos, the league, and the entire sport.

In 1977 I was in the early stages of my writing career, and covering the Cosmos was a plum job. I saw many Meadowlands matches, and others around North America. In the locker room afterward, Chinaglia’s legs would be bruised, from hip to ankle. It was the price he paid, as a goal scorer. He took plenty of hits — who said soccer isn’t a contact sport? — but he never complained. He just sat there on a stool after matches, answering questions he thought deserved responses, staring imperiously at sportswriters he thought were imbeciles.

Giorgio Chinaglia, in a recent photo.

And smoking cigarettes.

Giorgio Chinaglia died yesterday in Florida, of a heart attack. He was 65 years old.

He wasn’t the best role model, as anyone at Green’s Farms Academy that day 35 years ago could see.

Then again, he never pretended to be. He was simply Giorgio Chinaglia.