Highlights: 1979 Tampa Bay vs NY Cosmos from ABC
As we discussed in our recent podcast with Dave Brett Wasser, two NASL teams that seemed to stand out from the rest were Tampa Bay and New York. While Seattle, Minnesota and Vancouver all had competitive and well supported squads and Fort Lauderdale later developed a colorful tradition, from 1975 through 1980, the Cosmos-Rowdies rivalry helped fuel the NASL. Part of this was due to the colorful nature of the stars of both teams: Rodney Marsh with Tampa Bay and Giorgio Chinaglia with New York.
This particular game was instructive as to the success and the ultimate downfall of the NASL. Tampa Stadium was packed and the game was shown on a Saturday afternoon nationally on ABC. The quality and pace of play were outstanding. But much of this was due to the bloated payrolls of both teams who perhaps could have been very competitive in the European Cup of those days (the forerunner of the UEFA Champions League).
Also, the game was a gem but ABC took a commercial break and missed the winning Rowdies goal. They showed the highlights with Jim McKay giving a fairly poor explanation as to how the buildup and goal occurred.
As popular as the NASL on TV compared to MLS these days, the television production and commentary on our current football setup is far superior. We have announcers and analysts that grew up with the game or long ago grew into the game. Also the sheer number of foreign players in the NASL made it difficult for many Americans to get their heads around the sport. This is a lesson for MLS who imports foreign players with less quality than the NASL but has ten times as many quality Americans in the league.