The story starts out in Cleveland, Ohio where Rick is playing quarterback for the Browns. After a terrible game he chooses to flee town and try to start over. His agent, Arnie, gets him a deal with the Parma Panthers of Italy. Rick decides to give it a try and moves out to Parma shortly after. He lives in the heart of the city and is surrounded by great food and strong Italian culture. The book takes place in the modern world and makes many references to real NFL players and events that happened. This book is fictional, but is realistic enough that it could easily be read as a true story. All of the struggles Rick faces are real struggles for some NFL hopefuls and the events that happen to him could easily happen to anyone.
Throughout Playing for Pizza, Rick shows many traits that reflect human nature in general. When he is run out of Cleveland, Rick eventually decides to flee the entire country because of his newly gained infamy.
By doing this, Rick shows the human nature to avoid humility if at all possible. He knows that wherever he goes, he will be ridiculed and laughed at because of his last performance. Instead of facing this, he is too scared to go anywhere and even refuses to go home because he knows that even his hometown will be critical of him. Rick doesn’t show any courage in doing this and shows that when people are against the wall, they will flee.
Another example of human nature is when Rick is unsure about going to Italy.
He knows nothing about the culture and will have no close ties if he gets into trouble. Naturally, Rick should be nervous. Human nature tells us to avoid things that we are unfamiliar with and Rick is doing simply that. He doesn’t know the language, culture, or anyone there, and yet he must find a way to live there happily. He is hesitant when his agent first tells him the offer but accepts the challenge. Despite his uncertainty, Rick makes the transition smoothly and proves that just because you are unfamiliar with something doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt.
One more example of human nature that Ricks displays is his admiration of women.
At the opera house, Rick quickly sets his eyes on one of the actresses and is determined to see her again. This attraction shows that no matter where he is in the world, he is still going to have a desire for women. When he first arrives in Parma, Rick is bummed that there are no cheerleaders like Archie promised. Rick has grown up in a world where women are everywhere, and now all of a sudden he can’t find one. Despite the language barrier, he shows that no matter what, he will always want to have a girl near him.
Playing for Pizza is about an American quarterback named Rick Dockery that soon finds himself jobless after a dismal performance in his last NFL game. His agent gets him the only deal he can with a team from Parma, Italy. Rick decides to give it a try and moves into a completely new culture with new people. His new teammates welcome him with open arms and look to him for leadership. Rick doesn’t disappoint when he leads them to a win in the first game of the season. Perhaps overconfident, Rick loses his focus one weekend and plays poorly while also losing the trust of his teammates. After this, Rick works extremely hard and helps the Panthers win their last couple games and eventually get to the Italian Super Bowl. The Panthers go on to win the Super Bowl against their rivals, the Bergamo Lions, as Rick throws one of the best passes ever to Fabrizio. After the season, Rick goes on a vacation with his girlfriend Livvy.
The American players mostly play for material things like money and cars while they are in the NFL. In contrast, the Italians play because the game means something to them and they want to play it for fun.
The players in Parma trust Rick from the start because they truly believe that he will lead them to a Super Bowl win. The NFL teams do not trust him anymore because of what he did in his last game with Cleveland.
The people in America seem to hate Rick simply because he played bad in one game. He is shunned or ridiculed everywhere he goes. In Italy, the people love him from the start and everyone involved with the Panthers accepts him with loving arms and tries to make him feel comfortable.
After a disappointing loss, Rick dedicates himself to working harder and gaining the faith of his teammates back because he hadn’t been giving it his all. At Rick’s first practice he is thinking that he shouldn’t have to do the running just because he is a quarterback, which shows how lazy he can be at times.
In Cleveland, Rick must live in humility after his embarrassing last performance. It seems that he will never regain a good reputation. However, in Parma, Rick is credited with one of the best passes ever as he leads the Panthers to the Super Bowl and is able to fix his self-confidence with one throw.
“I love you man. You’re the greatest, Arn,” (192).
I liked this quote because it showed a different side of Rick towards Arnie. Usually he is somewhat critical of Arnie and always demanding more. Here, he is grateful for Arnie and shows that he really does appreciate him.
“Three months after he fled Cleveland, they were still eating his carcass,” (158).
This quote shows that Rick is still hated in Cleveland and I like the figure of speech used at the end. It shows that he can’t escape his past.
“I say we take it easy tonight,” (137).
This shows that Rick has a conscience and that he is trying to be a leader despite his earlier mistakes. I respect him more because this shows that he has some self control.
“And I haven’t seen a single tanning salon in Parma,” (217).
This quote shows the differences in culture and how people in Italy don’t care as much about getting a tan because most of them are already dark skinned.
“These guys have real jobs, “(41).
This shows that the Italians have a life outside of football and that they can’t depend on it for money like so many American players do.
“I’m trying to ease you into Italian culture,” (45).
I like this because it shows that Sam understands that Rick must be uncomfortable and that he is trying to help him out. It shows a little bit of who Sam is and the understanding that he shows.
“Says the team was unable to find a decent quarterback in the off-season so we’re screwed again,” (75).
This shows a little of Sly’s humor and that he is comfortable with Rick. The American connection allows them to joke with each other like this and Sly usually provides some humor when he is present.
“They were ready for war,” (106).
This shows that the Italians take it seriously and that they really want to win. I like this because it shows a side of them that isn’t friendly and loving, but rather fierce and determined.
“The Italian players had quickly adopted their American teammates,” (120).
I like this because it shows who the Italians really are. They are loving and accepting and it shows that football players don’t always have to act big and bad.
“Time expired, and the Panthers of Parma had their first Super Bowl trophy,” (252).
I like this because it shows that they have finally reached their goal of winning and that bringing in Rick was worth it. It gives a sense of relief after such a long season.