Related topics

Pellom McDaniels plumbs his soul in ‘My Own Harlem’

December 27, 1997

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Feeling cheated, he stands at the grave of a grandfather he never knew and recalls indifferent letters mailed from exotic places by a father he hardly knew.

More upbeat passages speak of his love for the richly textured history of jazz, and of a thoughtful professor with ``a voice abundant in wisdom″ telling startled students things about slavery they didn’t want to hear.

In ``My Own Harlem,″ a 64-page soft-cover compilation of his previous writings, Kansas City linebacker Pellom McDaniels offers poetic musings and deeply personal thoughts of a complex young man in search of a place for himself and his people.

One subject he omits, however, is the one that fans would probably most look forward to. The man who played a key role in the Chiefs’ drive toward a 13-3 regular-season record and AFC West championship does not include a single passage about sports. There is not a word about how he stepped in for injured star Derrick Thomas early this season and supplied the Chiefs with championship-caliber play.

``There’s a lot more to Pellom McDaniels than football,″ Chiefs’ coach Marty Schottenheimer once said,

``My Own Harlem″ was published this year in Kansas City in connection with ``Arts for Smarts,″ a program conducted by McDaniels and his wife, Navvab, to acquaint disadvantaged kids with dance, theater and literature. Currently, about 2,000 are involved.

``We do a lot more than just encourage them. We work with them, and get the kids to work together,″ McDaniels said. ``They’re building self-esteem and an interest in school. In our writing program, we help kids express themselves, and help them learn to speak before groups of people.″

A graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in communications and political science, the energetic McDaniels also owns and operates his own clothing company.

Newspaper and television reporters covering the Chiefs learned long ago that McDaniels was a sure bet whenever they needed a witty, thoughtful quote or sound bite.

But in ``My Own Harlem,″ his reflections often seem dark and moody, such as the passage entitled ``My beginning.″

``My grandfather I barely knew. His memory was washed away with the absence of my father ... now I stand over a grave site that gives no indication of his ever living. Of my existence. Of our name ... who was he? What did he like? What did he die of?

``There was no marker for the grave, just a number, 1470. I sit and swell with anger. He deserves to be known. To be recognized ... he has a name and a past ... Pelham N. McDaniel was a man. Pelham N. McDaniel was me. And now I am found.″

The mood of the most of his writings is a sharp contrast to the affable, outgoing personality teammates have come to know.

``I think that’s one of the most important things people can derive from the arts,″ he said. ``It helps a person get in touch with their innermost feelings. It’s a path to truth. And besides, it’s fun.″

In another passage entitled ``Sleep Walkers,″ the athlete/entrepreneur/artist denounces those who ``steal from my precious, limited and bountiful resource _ time.″

``Sleeping is for thieves,″ he writes. ``For they steal the energy of life and all its rewards. Wasting thoughtless action and pursuing empty goals with empty purpose. Dreaming of what could be, acting on nothing.″

Update hourly