Saturday, May 2, 2009

Playing for Pizza

Playing for Pizza, by John Grisham
$12.07 at Amazon.com

ISBN: 1846053684

John Grisham is most famous for writing legal thrillers like The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill. Here, he's tried something different and it's a credit to what a good writer he is. Bravo, Mr. Grisham!

There's an old saying that God never closes a door without opening a window. This is the delightful story of Rick Dockery, a 28 year-old professional football player. The story begins after a catastrophic game in which Rick loses the championship for his team, the Cleveland Browns.

He's injured and briefly in the hospital, fired by the Browns, and no NFL team will hire him after his now infamous fumble.

Miraculously, Rick's agent manages to find him a job playing for a team in Parma, Italy.

That's right, American football, which apparently many Italians love. I learned something new.

The job doesn't pay enough to keep him in the jet set lifestyle to which he's accustomed, but he has few prospects in the US and takes what he can get.

When he arrives he knows almost nothing about modern Italy. He is almost a dumb jock at this point. In time the beautiful culture matures him. He develops a friendship with a beautiful opera diva who guides him through some of Europe's most beautiful cities, and for the first time imagines himself with someone other than a one-night-stand cheerleader.

My favorite scenes were the ones with his football teammates. They're a real fun group of dudes who indeed get paid little more than pizza yet dream of winning the Super Bowl.

Playing for Pizza is great for a guy who hasn't read a good book in a while. It's not too long (258 pages), is easy to get into, and full of sophisticated European adventure but with a rugged, sporty American protagonist.

There are some suspenseful scenes on the football field, but you needn't be a fan or even know the rules of the game to follow along: it just gives the novel some much-needed tension. It's mostly the tale of a handsome athlete who visits a beautiful city. A surefire crowd-pleaser!

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