Playing for Pizza

November 13, 2007

Written by John Grisham

Read by Christopher Evan Welch

Published by Random House Audiobooks

Price: £16.99 Random House

Playing for Pizza is about failing American Footballer, Rick Dockery. It’s set in Italy, and there’s not a lawyer, murder, kidnapping or Mafioso in the entire plot! Oddly enough, considering it’s about American football, there are only a couple of cheerleaders!

Christopher Evan Welch opens with Rick, a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, in a hospital bed. His soft American twang fits with the story, making our Main Character come alive in the imagination. The whole book is easy on the ear; both with the tone and prose making me reach for disc after disc – even though I haven’t a clue about American Football! I’m actually shocked at how physically dangerous the game is!

Rick’s been severely injured in a tackle whilst snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to become a national “Goat”. Overnight he becomes the most hated player in Cleveland, with picketers outside the hospital (and a standing joke in Denver). He’s duly dropped by Browns, making a job on any other American team out of the question.

By fluke, Rick’s agent finds him an opening with a struggling Italian NFL team, the Parma Panthers with an American coach, Sam Russo. Rick doesn’t even know where Parma is and finds the team consisting of local amateurs who have day jobs, and a couple of American pros. Worse still, gone is his ‘stupid thousand dollar’ salary, penthouse and top-of-the-range car. He has to learn to contend with a small flat in town and even smaller car. Even so, the Panthers’ fight hard to in the Italian Super Bowl for the chance to come away as champions, and beat the Bergamo Lions.

During his season in Italy, Rick negotiates a huge learning curve. This being the crux of the story, he realises that there is more to life than Football and a huge salary. He discovers opera, art, and architecture with Livvy Galloway, a frustrated college-student daughter of two warring parents in the middle of a divorce. He falls in love with all of it, especially Livvy.

I’m craving an Italian break now, due to the cultural destinations visited, the mouth watering food descriptions and the beautiful language. This audio read a little like a travel book with heart.

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