Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading Huddle: Playing for Pizza Discussion Questions

Last month, I introduced you to Playing for Pizza, John Grisham’s novel about a down-on-his-luck third-string NFL quarterback hiding out in Parma, Italy.  If you missed my synopsis and back story on this latest “Reading Huddle” selection, click here to see that post. 

If you actually read the book, continue reading for some discussion questions.  You can feel free to post any reactions or thoughts in the “Comments” section below, or feel free to use them for any book club you belong to in the real world.  (Oh, and as promised, I've thrown in a few more of our Italy vacation photos for your viewing pleasure.)

Positano, on the Amalfi Coast
1.  Did you like Rick?  Why or why not?

2.  Rick was not very successful in the NFL.  Do you think that he was playing down a level so he could have a relatively risk-free job as a third-string quarterback?  Did his being less talented (or less ambitious) make you less sympathetic to his situation—or to him as a character?

3.  This book was released in 2007, when NFL Europe—the league’s effort to start a global expansion of American football—was folding.  This appears to be just bad luck for Grisham, but does knowing that give you any new perspective on the story or the love for the game held by the Italian characters?
Inside the Coliseum in Rome

4.  On page 111, Rick sends two emails:  one to his parents and one to his agent, Arnie.  They both share the same facts about the Panthers’ first game, but they each had a different tone—in the email to his parents, Rick says, “Having fun”; to Arnie, he asks if his agent had talked to Tampa Bay, indicating he was anxious to return to the U.S.  Which do you think reflected his true feelings at the time?  Is it possible that they both did?
Mount Vesuvius

5.  Though the focus of the story is football, it’s clear that Pizza is a John Grisham love letter to Italy.  Were his details about food, architecture and culture a distraction, or a welcome element in the book?
Rome's Trevi Fountain

6.  How do you explain Rick’s lack of judgment when he and a few other players traveled separately to Milan and he ended up playing hung-over?

7.  Rick finally finds his cheerleader in the form of Livvy, an American co-ed.  Did her presence add anything to the story for you, or do you think she was just an excuse for Grisham to include descriptions of churches and castles, as well as tidbits of Italian history, as she dragged Rick around the country?

The Vatican (as it happens, a church and a museum)

8.  Did you approve of Rick’s decision regarding the offer in Toronto?  Was it mature or shortsighted?

A small cove on the shores of Capri
9.  How about his confrontation with reporter Charley Cray?

10. In the NFL, Rick had a (well-deserved) reputation for being afraid of getting hit.  However, as his season in Italy wore on, he became less concerned about his personal safety.  This was especially apparent in the Super Bowl.  Do you think this was because they had a chance to win?  If so, does that make his willingness to sacrifice his body less heroic?

Inside the Blue Grotto, on the island of Capri

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