116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
John Grisham spent a lot of time in Italy writing his legal thriller THE BROKER, and I guess he liked the country so much, he decided to write another novel based in Italy, and the result is PLAYING FOR PIZZA. In PLAYING FOR PIZZA, Rick Dockery is a 3rd string NFL quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In the AFC championship game, the Browns are winning 20-0 when the top two quarterbacks are injured. Dockery enters the game and engineers an epic collapse and the Browns lose. Dockery is hated in Cleveland and laughed at everywhere else. His agent finds a team that might actually want him, the Parma Panthers. The Panthers play American football in Italy, where the crowds are sparse, the fields are rough, and the players play for the love of the game and the pizza and beer afterwards.
Rick joins the team in Italy, hoping for a new start in life, trying to avoid a paternity suit, and wanting to hook up with the team cheerleaders. His new teammates embrace him and Rick is given a tutorial in Itialian culture, including the long four hour meals. The description Grisham gives of the meal was enough to convince me that I must go to Italy just for the food. The team's goal is to win the Italian Super Bowl and the face a lot of hurdles during their quest. They lose players to injuries or apathy, and they get sidetracked by women and partying.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel because Grisham is a good writer. But while I enjoyed Rick and his escapades, I didn't really care for Rick because Rick didn't care for anything. Sure, he wanted to put the horrible Cleveland performance behind him, but he is still a shallow, horny, irresponsible person. The romance toward the end of the book seemed without substance.
I've always enjoyed Grisham's work, even if some of his latest novels have been a bit disappointing. For some reason, I think Grisham knows exactly what he's doing. In Playing for Pizza, he created a novel about an American idol (football) in an Italian culture. That was the story. The characters were secondary. The book excels at covering Italy and even gets the football stuff right. Grisham is still a great writer, his plot choices just are sometimes boring. I recommend this book to Grisham fans, but you should probably get it from the library.
129 of 141 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2007
Known and loved for his legal thrillers, John Grisham has managed to break free from expectations with whimsical novels such as "Skipping Christmas" and "Bleachers." He delved into literary writing with "A Painted House," and wrote a decent if a bit dry non-fiction work. I've enjoyed each of these departures for different reasons and in varying degrees.
"Playing for Pizza" captured my interest with its continental flair and themes of failure and commitment. Rick Dockery, formerly and ignobly of the NFL, has escaped to Parma, Italy, where he can play for pizza and a pittance, while avoiding the troubles back home. Along the way, he discovers a few things about himself. As I started the book, I thought it might pull together all the pieces and give us a great Italian meal--humor, pathos, wisdom, and history in a fine recipe.
I was wrong. Though this modern tale gives nice insights into Italian architecture and cuisine, it is short on humor, and the wisdom is diluted by Rick's incessant selfishness and bland approach to many things. It's hard to believe an emotional and physical slacker such as this could've ever made it to the NFL in the first place. Even in conclusion, he resolves very few of his own issues back home, and instead continues to escape from them. I kept wanting to like him. I kept wanting to like the book. But even the women he picks for relationships are shallow or weak.
As usual, Grisham's writing moves at a fast clip. The book is--thankfully--not long. It's worth a few hours for those who love anything Grisham writes, and it has its satisfying moments. Overall, though, this is more spaghetti than cannoli, more Vespa than Ferrari.
78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
I have missed John Grisham - Bleachers wasn't my favorite, but the title, Playing for Pizza made me take a closer look. It is the story of a third string quarterback, Rick Dockery, who has pretty much played himself out of American and Canadian football - part is wrong timing, part is he is not much of a scrambler, but he lost a really big game and ended up in the hospital with injuries - There is practically a lynch squad outside the hospital. Rick's agent is running out of options where to place Rick- there is a very intruiging offer - a position for a quarterback - a starting quarterback with the Panthers - no, not Carolina, Parma - Parma Italy! They have football teams there and while most of the members of the team play for the passion and fun of it, they are willing to pay to have an American play with them - The dollar figure offered is not great, but after some difficulties in the states, Rick goes to Italy -
He is welcomed, but soon, in spite of perks of being paid, a car, an apartment gratis, he has to train with the rest of the team - forget about quarterbacks not training with the team - he had to get into shape - and prove himself. He comes to love the Panthers, his team mates, his new country - And the football action is fantastic.
Yes, it is a story of redemption, but it is so much more - and beautifully and lightly written by Grisham -
He states his next book will have 'lots of lawyers' - I wish one of them represented the Panthers and had to visit them in Parma -
This is maybe my 2nd favorite Grisham - the first being A Time to Kill - there is no comparison between the two, but they are wonderful in their own rights.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2008
I'm sure that many hardcore Grisham fans will not see this as one of Grisham's best books -- and they will be right, but I really liked this book. Yes -- it is true that the characters aren't as well crafted as many of his others are, but then these are really likeable people. Rick Dockery is just like the jocks you know -- a big goofy guy who isn't too deep but then he has a sense of honor and openness that makes it hard not to like him. He likes to play football and that is really all he knows so he is willing to play for peanuts -- not really Pizza but not much more. It is a wonderful trip watching him develop from the aging frat boy into a real man who finally sees himself and others as they truly are. I particularly liked his discovery of Opera, because it was similar to my own. I even sympathized with his view of all of those historical churches and cobblestones -- like him I loved Italy but there are more churches and cobblestones than I care to see. His girl friend is a little enigmatic but then she really drives him to a more mature view of himself and others. Grisham also captures the feel of Italy and the Italian attitudes better than any book I have ever read. The Italians have a view of life that is hard to beat and Grisham really captures that feel in this book and it is that Italian view of life that eventually captures Rick as well.
There is really only one bad guy in the book and he isn't all that bad -- he is more like pain in the neck and Rick deals with him very effectively and precisely like you would expect someone like Rick to deal with a pain in the neck -- as I said Rick is not deep or devious. I liked this book and highly recommend it even though it is a little fluffy compared to other Grisham works. If you want to read a feel good book -- buy this one. I would love to see the movie.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2007
This is a delightful book for readers who enjoy American football and Italy. The author understands living in Italy. It is a fun read. His insights of how Italians plan their days around eating are so true.
I have a friend who has played for the Milan Football Team for years. The players are devoted to the game. They paly in all sorts of weather to a small group of fans. That is real devotion.
Of course after the game they eat like kings.
I have lived in Italy for many years and found the story very true to life.
81 of 97 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Yes, it is a departure from Grisham's usual legal thrillers but those were getting quite boring in my opinion. Same stuff, different book. I think the writing of this novel was very well done, Grisham creates very likeable characters who I found myself rooting for on each and every game day, sometimes even skipping ahead to see if they won. The main character of Rick Dockery goes through the usual motions of self discovery after a huge letdown but I still was on his side. I did find the football plays terribly confusing to read but I do not profess a lot of familiarity with the "Xs and Os" as Grisham calls them. This book is a quick read and enjoyable but I would not recommend purchasing it unless you really really really love John Grisham.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2007
Rick Dockery was what might be lightly called a professional football quarterback. The fact that he's been on eight "professional" teams (If you count the Toronto Argonauts.) in six years, does, I suppose, allow him to list it as an occupation on his income tax returns. Though in a few cities, and especially Cleveland, you might get an argument. In fact in Cleveland, you might get a punch in the mouth, and start a riot, just at the mention of Rick's name! After being nothing more than a 3rd string, bench warming, roster filling quarterback, for the aforementioned teams and years, he got the chance of a lifetime. In fact, it was much more than a chance, it was the kind of opportunity every red blooded boy in America dreams of: He had a chance to be the quarterback on a Super Bowl team. But that chance, quickly changed to almost, and then changed to blown!
As the third string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Rick was standing on the sidelines in the AFC Championship game against Denver, doing what he did best, watching the game. The entire city of Cleveland, and anyone whoever lived in Cleveland, was breathing rarefied air and dreaming the "un-dreamable", their Browns were ELEVEN MINUTES AWAY from going to the Super Bowl. But here's where Rick comes in to the picture: The first and second string quarterbacks go out with injuries, and Rick enters the game with a "SEVENTEEN TO NOTHING LEAD!" He proceeds to throw three interceptions which lose the game, and on the last one he is knocked unconscious with a concussion, and when he wakes up in a hospital, the cops actually have to arrest people outside the hospital who want to lynch him. He sneaks out of town after the local newspaper votes him the biggest goat in the history of sports.
No professional team in America will even return his agents calls, and the agent is wondering how to dump him too. So, this leads to a contract with the Parma Panthers in Italy, where 3/4 of the players aren't paid, and their day jobs range from waiter, to judge, to math professor. Rick quickly realizes that in Italy the players care as much about food and wine as they do football, and this is where the fun and story unfolds for the reader.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2007
I am a fan of Grisham, Pizza, and all things Italian, but this book is poorly done. The language is awkward and we don't really know the characters and consequently we don't really care what happens to them. The "love scenes" are somewhat demure- which is ok- but they really aren't believable- they feel contrived and almost an afterthought, like he thought this would add some heat or reality to his story. It doesn't. It is obvious Grisham is not comfortable handling this part of the human experience.
I much prefer Grisham's legal novels, but actually my favorite was A Painted House. This book is a Harlequin romance with a little football thrown in to dazzle us. Save your money. If I wanted hokey, poorly written tripe I would buy something by Nicholas Sparks.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2007
"Playing for Pizza" is another of John Grisham's occassional departures from the lawyer genre. While many of his devoted readers find this a problem, I, on the other hand, have enjoyed his non-lawyer efforts.
Rick Dockery, a journeyman third string NFL quarterback hits bottom professionally and finds himself in Parma, Italy playing American football. While he is paid a modest amount of cash, most of his teammates actually do play for pizza (and love of the game). While we watch Rick rebuild his life, Grisham also gives us a very pleasant albeit somewhat superficial look at Italian life.
This book is short and moves at a very nice pace. There is enough football to let the reader know that football is the vehicle for the story, but not so much football as to bog the book down. All in all, this is a light, but very enjoyable story. Definitely worth the time it took to read it.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2007
I don't usually read novels that involve sports to any great degree. I'm just not a fan of professional sports, and I tend to find something else to do if confronted with the choice to watch or say, go scrub the bathroom. The bathroom usually wins. That's not to say that I don't know anything about it either.
After my most recent reading adventure, I decided that it was time to read something lighthearted, and maybe even funny, and lift my mood a bit. I had read previous novels by John Grisham, and while this certainly wasn't a thriller, it did look rather fun.
Rick Dockery wakes up in a hospital bed, with a very fuzzy memory, and the only thing that he's really certain of is that he's hurt really really bad, and that something awful happened. As he is gently informed by his agent, Arnie, not only did he actually get to play in a major NFL game (Rick is the backup to the backup quarterback), but he blew the Cleveland Browns certain win by throwing three intercepted passes, causing the Denver Broncos to win in the last few minutes of the game. To say that his professional career is in ruins is an understatement.
So when his agent suggests that it might be a good idea to get out of town, Rick heartily agrees. But when Arnie calls that he has a new job for him -- and as a starting quarterback at that -- Ricks a bit dubious, especially when where he's being sent is the Italian city of Parma. Rick knows nothing about Italy, doesn't speak the language, and when he's told that he's playing American football, it's an entirely new world that's opening up before him.
Not that there isn't problems -- a nasty reporter from Cleveland is heckling him, and a bubble-headed groupie is seeking a paternity claim. And it seems that the gorgeous cheerleaders that his agent promised are no where in sight.
It's a funny novel, full of slice-of-life incidents for Rick, from meeting his teammates which include waiters, a judge, a cook, farmers and construction workers without a pro in sight, all of them looking to Rick to supply that coveted Super Bowl trophy for the Parma Panthers, to the weirdnesses of the judicial system, and driving a Fiat. But then, Rick also finds out about food -- real Italian food and wine, and that there's a very different pace to life here in Italy.
While I had read Grisham's earlier works, I wasn't expecting very much out of this novel except for an evening's entertainment. A good portion of the story is given over to the play of football, some of it in the archaic, arcane language of the huddle, but to balance that are some beautiful descriptions of Italian meals that are mouthwatering, and a part of the world that tends to get overlooked. It's also an amusing novel on being an expatriate and being abroad in circumstances not entirely in our control. Most of all, it's a cheerful novel, about a man having to figure out what to do when his life goes flying apart and he has to figure out a way to cope and get his life back together -- something that no one is ever really taught how to do until they're in the middle of it all.
So don't expect any great ideas or theories here, but instead, open up a good bottle of wine, settle in with this book, and have several hours to relax and go along for the ride. It's worth it. Overall, it's about three and a half stars, upgraded to four, since I still can't give half stars.