For Carli Lloyd I'd guess that's a distinction without a difference. After Lloyd scored the goals that lifted the US Olympic women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Japan in the gold medal match at London's Wembley Stadium last week, thinking of herself less was decidedly not on her agenda.
"When someone tells me I can't do something, I'm going to always prove them wrong," Lloyd bragged to an NBC interviewer. "That's what a champion is all about and that's what I am -- a champion!"
Once upon a time it was considered low-class for athletes to be so smug and self-adoring. Winners of championships and gold medals were expected to be gracious, to show a little modesty -- to enjoy the acclaim their splendid achievements had earned, without becoming boastful jerks in the process. At times the taboo extended even to the impression of arrogance: For merely failing to tip his cap to fans at Fenway Park, Ted Williams was thought by many to be haughty and too full of himself.
Of course many gifted athletes are still models of grace and good manners. But as viewers of the recent Olympics were too often reminded, the egotists who aren't not only pay no penalty, they are showered with attention and air time.
"I'm now a legend," crowed Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who won gold medals in the men's 100- and 200-meter races at the London Games. "I'm also the greatest athlete to live." Humility? What's that? Well before the Olympics opened, Bolt was swaggering for the press, telling reporters in June that the London Games would make him a "living legend."