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.
The book Playing for Pizza is a good novel to read for anyone that is interested in a fun fiction novel. Grisham makes the characters very realistic and their close relationships make it easy to follow along. Rick is a character that is easy to get attached to because from the start he has to overcome setbacks. The culture change made it interesting for me because I didn’t really know anything about Italy before I read this book. I like how Rick seems like a real American guy and I think his interest in women gives the book an element of American culture throughout. I wish Grisham would have made a dramatic twist to the plot at the end because throughout the whole book I always got the feeling that the Panthers would eventually win the Super Bowl. I would recommend this book because it is easy to read and can actually teach you a little about a culture that most people don’t know much about. The main character has many qualities that make it easy to feel for him and the Italians’ warm hearts are something that every reader can get into.
In Playing for Pizza, Rick soon finds that the Italian people enjoy the sport of football much more than the Americans that play professionally. Sam explains to him that they simply play because they love the game. Sam clearly states this when he says, “Yes, the Italians play for the sport of it. And the post-game pizza,” (34). Rick doesn’t really understand this too much at first, but as he begins to practice with the Italians and spends more time with them, he soon realizes Sam is completely right about them. This sentence displays the theme of the story by showing that it is possible to do something simply because you love it. They don’t play for a big fat paycheck or to become famous. Instead, they play because they love the sport. The theme of the story is “Doing what you love,” and nobody does this better than the Italians. As Rick spends more and more time with them, their attitude towards football and life begin to slowly rub off on him.
Rick Dockery is a twenty eight year old NFL quarterback that is cut several times a year because he isn’t a necessity. He becomes the most hated man in Cleveland after throwing away a trip to the Super Bowl in less than one full quarter. When he is forced to flee the country after being accused of impregnating a cheerleader, he winds up in Parma, Italy without a clue as to what he is doing. I like the fact that Rick is willing to make changes. He goes from something that seems so natural to him to playing in a completely different part of the world with people he doesn’t know. I also like that Rick is willing to continue to pursue his dream. After a terrible game, he could have easily quit football forever and gone in a different direction in life. Instead, he decides to play another season and try to get his career back on track because football is the only thing he has ever known. I don’t like that Rick is so worried about his personal image throughout the book. I think it was cowardly of him to run from Cleveland and to not even go home because he is scared of what his dad will say. Everyone makes mistakes and I don’t like the fact that he tries to run away from his. I think he deserves praise for following his dream, but I think he could just as well be criticized for his approach to women. He is angry at Arnie when he finds out that there are no cheerleaders in Parma. But should that really matter? He didn’t go to Italy for a relationship, he went to play football. I don’t think he should be so worried about meaningless hookups with cheerleaders that he will never speak to again.
The major change that happens in the main character’s life in this story is his agent Arnie convincing him to move to Parma, Italy. Rick grew up in the middle of the United States and has grown accustomed to the American culture. Suddenly he is pushed into a completely unknown part of the world and must immediately try to make friends with his new teammates. Although his coach helps him, Rick still struggles at first to accept the new world that he lives in. Another change that Rick goes through is his position with his team. In the NFL, Rick was a backup to a backup and rarely ever touched the field. He was moved around several times a year and never really found a place for himself. In Italy, Rick is hailed by his new teammates and is his opinions are greatly appreciated. Rick’s mindset is also changing because he is realizing the real important things in life. In America, all he cared about was trying to make it big and finding pretty cheerleaders. In Italy, he is beginning to grasp the real joys of playing football and the brotherhood that comes with it. Although Rick doesn’t really want these drastic changes at first, it is obvious that they have a positive impact on his life.
The title of this novel, Playing for Pizza, is significant because of how it depicts the new culture that Rick enters. Rick grew up as a star quarterback in Iowa and is now an NFL player. After living the dream of being an American professional athlete, his career in the NFL is cut short after a terrible game. Now, after growing up dreaming of the money and the fame that being an NFL quarterback can bring, he is left without a job. Upon moving to Parma, Italy to be a quarterback for a team he’s never heard of, Rick soon finds out that there is more to football than pretty cheerleaders and fame. The men of Parma play the game because they simply love it. While some of the American players get paid small salaries, most of the Italian-born players play only for the friendships that are made and the pizza after the games and practices. Rick soon finds out that life isn’t all about living in the fast lane and that sometimes, being with good people is all you need. The title symbolizes Rick’s life coming together at last. The “pizza” part symbolizes Italy, his new home and the first home he’s had in years. “Playing” symbolizes his real love of football and how it has guided his life to all corners of the world.