Playing For Pizza isn’t John Grisham’s first foray into the world of sports, but it is his first novel about football. A short read at just 306 pages, it tells the story of Rick Dockery, a third-string NFL quarterback who has managed to ruin every shot he’s had at playing professional football. After a bad performance with the Browns, he’s cut from the team; with no prospects other than football, Rick’s agent finds him a job playing in Italy. The Parma Panthers don’t attract large crowds, pay their players or have pristine facilities, but what they do have is a passion for the game that is sorely lacking in America. At first, Rick has a hard time with the culture shock, but eventually he learns to accept his teammates and embraces playing just because he loves it. John Grisham acknowledges that he visited Italy and spent some time with the real Parma Panthers, and I think he perfectly captured the essence of athleticism and passion that isn’t always found at the top collegiate levels or in the NFL. If I didn’t know better I would assume that John Grisham was a high school or Division II/III football coach. The ending was predictable, but as this was a feel-good novel, it didn’t detract from the story.
5 out of 5 stars because I like it when an established author steps outside of their usual niche and creates completely new characters