As John Grisham explains in an Author's Note, he discovered, while researching another book, the existence of American-style football in Italy operating under the guise of the Italian Football League. The IFL even has its own version of the Super Bowl. Apparently, the author thought this enough of an oddity that it could serve as the basis for a one-off novel. Thus, PLAYING FOR PIZZA.
Here, the third-string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, Rick Dockery, single-handedly wrests a dramatic defeat from the jaws of sure victory in the AFC Championship game. Immediately cut from the Browns, Dockery is advised by his agent to get out of town before he's lynched. Indeed, perhaps he should make himself scarce from the U.S. entirely as no other franchise will now sign him. To make the exit easier, the agent finds Rick a gig with the IFL's Parma Panthers, which is soon to begin its eight-game season and will pay for an NFL QB. Prudence being the better part of valor, and also faced with a paternity suit, Dockery dusts off his passport and packs his bags. Besides, his agent indicates that Parma has cheerleaders.
As it turns out, the Panthers have no cheerleaders.
PLAYING FOR PIZZA isn't great literature. It's not even a great trashy novel. It is, however, an undemanding, predictable, and congenial tale of an immature and marginally talented athlete who grows up while rediscovering a love for the game. It's perfect for mindless reading over the lunch hour during the interminable baseball season.
PLAYING FOR PIZZA may also have an attraction for anyone who's dreamed of living and working in a foreign country (as I have), as well as any current NFL signal caller who needs a change of venue and Canadian or arena football just isn't an option. (Tebow should note that Italy has an abundance of churches.)
PLAYING FOR PIZZA falls somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, but closer to the latter.