Commentary: Just another oversized ego

The Miami HeraldApril 15, 2011 

PITTS LEONARD 1

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.

CHUCK KENNEDY — KRT

"You know who I am," she said.

Of course, according to witnesses and to Miami Beach Police, LeBron James’ mother said — and did — a number of dumb things during and after the encounter with a hotel valet last week that got her charged with simple battery and disorderly intoxication. Gloria James, 43, is said to have left the Fountainebleau Miami Beach hotel sometime after 4 in the morning and asked the valet to bring her car. The valet did, whereupon she allowed it to sit idling for half an hour while she chatted with friends. Finally, the valet shut off the engine and gave the keys to a cashier.

Moments later, James allegedly confronted the valet, demanding her keys. Police reports and witnesses say she cursed and yelled at him, then slapped him in the face — which caused her to fall, a sequence she denies. When police arrived, she reportedly refused to speak or identify herself. She is said to have had red-rimmed eyes and a reek of alcohol. After her arrest, an officer at the station tried to get her to speak. James’ reported response: “I’m trying to trust you, but I don’t trust your kind.”

So no, none of this makes her look particularly good. But our focus today is on the thing the valet, Rockfeller Sorel, says she yelled as she was going upside his head: “You know who I am!”

Gloria James is not known to have ever dunked a ball, taken a charge or nailed a buzzer beater.

But . . . “You know who I am.”

It would be boorish for anybody — Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, the Queen of England — to behave as she is said to have done and top it off by declaring her own celebrity. But it is boorish, darkly comical and borderline pathetic for James to do so, given that the “accomplishment” upon which she apparently bases her importance is that when she was 16 years old somebody who grew up to be famous lived in her womb.

Not to diminish motherhood. Most of us are pro-mother. But the point is that motherhood is a common status, achieved by women everyday. You wouldn’t think of it as the kind of thing that gave a woman the right to lord it over the little people and slap them down if they displease.

Granted, this observation is made from the wrong side of the velvet rope, from beyond the periphery of the exclusive places to which one has access if one lives in the orbit of a star. I believe the word for that is “groupie.” Or “entourage.”

If that seems a cheap and flimsy kind of fame, well, cheap and flimsy fame is all the rage. It is conferred upon a plethora of Parises, Snookis, Situations, Real Housewives and other “celebrities” of no discernible talent or achievement.

So it’s easy to see how, if you lucked out and gave birth to the right one, you might feel entitled to your own share of the cheap and flimsy, to cross that velvet rope into where cameras flash, champagne flows, your derriere is unctuously kissed. And perhaps it becomes easy to forget that being known is not the same as being respected.

Or that proximity to greatness is not greatness.

Or that little people have feelings, too.

“You know who I am,” she reportedly cried.

Rockfeller Sorel would have done us all a favor — and given her a needed reality check — if he had replied to LeBron James’ mother.

“No, I don’t. Who are you, exactly?”

ABOUT THE WRITER

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com. He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.

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