Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

Playing for Pizza by John GrishamSince I started working out, I have found an excuse to read. I am able to read while spending time on the treadmill. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone. So as a motivation to read more, and to work out more, I picked up a book at Half Price Books. I grabbed a novel from John Grisham called Playing for Pizza. It’s a story of a washed up NFL quarterback and his chance at glory… in Italy.

Also, since I am writing movie reviews, I will try to write book reviews as well. I do tend to review the books I read on LinkedIn, and even utilize that as a way to track what I have read and am reading. But with an outlet like this, why not also blog about them?

Truly Enjoying Rick Dockery

John Grisham is not known for writings novels like this, which made this one even more interesting. That, and it was only $1 at Half Price Books. I love that store for this very reason, allowing me to buy books at a very reasonable rate. I usually go into Half Price Books with a budget in mind, and tend to shop mainly in the clearance section.

The main character in Playing for Pizza is Rick Dockery, often referred to as Ricky or Reek. They call him Reek because he spends most of his time in Italy, playing for the Parma Panthers. Football in Italy is not as popular as it is here in the United States, with soccer being the main focus over there. But the team still brings out some fans, as tickets are free. Imagine that… watching professional football for free!

“Fans of John Grisham live for his legal thrillers. But now and then he serves up something unexpected. That’s exactly what he does, with great success, in Playing For Pizza.” – USA Today

The book starts out with Rick throwing away (literally) the AFC Championship game. From there he finds himself on his way to Italy to play for the Parma Panthers. Each team is allowed three players from the USA. Rick is the only American player on the team, and his reputation follows him all the way overseas. American players are also the only ones who are paid to play. Rick is also provided a place to stay and a car, a Fiat that proves to be a challenge for him. He can’t drive a stick, kills the car nearly everywhere he goes, and finds it nearly impossible to park on the busy Italian streets. There are actually several parts of the book that focus on the car, and his inability to drive a stick shift.

Italian Culture Shock

When Rick first gets to Italy, he is greeted with open arms and is shown the true sense of what it means to be Italian. He gets to try new food, sample new wines, and is even taken to the opera. (Let’s just say Rick isn’t the type of guy to appreciate the opera. But he does get down on the food. The drinks too… several scenes you find Rick either drunk or experiencing a hangover.)

“Enthralling.” – People

Rick quickly becomes comfortable, and ends up falling in love with the lifestyle. Compared to the way he was treated in the States, these changes are welcome. He does, throughout the book, tend to fall “in love” with several women. He isn’t whoring himself around like you’d expect an NFL quarterback to do, but he does wake up in the bed of a stranger a few times.

When he really does fall in love, it’s with a woman singing in the opera. They date for a few chapters, and when she finally stands him up toward the end of the book, he quickly replaces her with an American college student. Not many people speak English, and it was always refreshing for him to find someone who does. (There is a lot of drama wrapped around this Jane Doe toward the end of the book, but nothing that doesn’t eventually sort itself out.)

Isn’t the point of this book football?

Yes, Rick is a football player, and a lot of this book details his passion for the game. But the Parma Panthers only play a handful of games each season, before the Super Bowl. Yes, they call it that over in Italy too! His team would have its ups and downs, and its fair share of roster changes, but by the end of the book what the Panthers had hoped for came true. (I can’t tell you if they won or lost the final game… but let’s just say the book ends on a high note.)

Rick ends up staying in Italy, and by the time I finished the final page I wanted to learn more about Rick. I hate it when I get hooked on a book like this, but I guess that’s what keeps me turning the page. I finished this book in less than a week and am excited to start my next read.

Have you read Playing for Pizza? Speaking of pizza… what are some of your favorite toppings?

At the end of the book, you learn that not only are the Parma Panthers real, but also John Grisham actually spent some time in Parma. The places are real, and while the names are completely fictional, the city of Parma does have a team in the NFL Italy, an actual professional football organization.

Click here to buy Playing for Pizza.

*A main selection of Book-of-the-Month Club, The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and The Mystery Guild.