NEW ORLEANS -- Death, taxes and Miami's football player talking trash.
The No. 1 Hurricanes were supposed to have curbed their pre-game chatter during the past two years, but they were up to their old tricks yesterday. They said they were in New Orleans not just to win the national championship, but showcase the nation's No. 1 defense.
Statistically, that honor belongs to No. 2 Alabama, whom the Hurricanes play on New Year's night in the USF&G Sugar Bowl.
The Hurricanes feel they are the best. And they apparently were willing to fight to prove it.
There were several brief verbal exchanges between several players from both teams Saturday night outside a tavern on Bourbon Street.
In the middle of the clash was Miami reserve linebacker Rohan Marley, son of Bob Marley, the late reggae king.
"I was dissing on one of their offensive lineman telling the fat slob he couldn't block me," Marley said. "Then there were a couple of other exchanges outside of Pat O'Brien's [a tavern], but nothing happened. We drifted down the street, but police kept us separated."
"Alabama is a one-dimensional team, not a complete team, and we're going to kick their a," Marley said. "It's going to be a good night for us. I wish we could play now."
"When we come into town our defense is usually the show, but this time we're getting overlooked," said Darren Krein, Miami's defensive end. "How can that happen? We've been at the top for so long. Alabama has not faced a defensive team with our speed. Our defensive players are taking this personally. By the end of the game, we'll show who is the best."
Alabama offensive players did not take kindly to the words. But for the most part they tried not to get into the battle of words.
"Rohan Marley is a naughty, naughty little boy," said Derrick Lassic, Alabama's leading rusher. "That little guy has a lot to back up on New Year's Day. I grew up in New York listening to his father. He was a great musician and a great person. I can't say the same thing about the kid."
Alabama wide receiver Prince Wimbley, who helped break up the arguments, said: "They always talk a lot, nothing changes. You get into a lot of talking with them, and they can get you totally out of your game. They try to intimidate you. They don't respect us, and we don't want their respect until after the game."
Lassic, who was at the tavern along with Marley, delivered a parting shot. When asked what he would say if he ran over Marley during the game, Lassic said: "Hey, we play in the SEC and they play in a . . . basketball conference. I probably wouldn't say nothing, maybe, oh mon, we be jammin'."
Speaking of a name . . .
Marley has many friends at the University of Miami, but most of his teammates don't know him well. The Hurricanes joke about his religion, his family's feud over the Marley estate and say he is so crazy he must be smoking ganja.
"They say he is leasing the family name, he's not a real Marley," said Jesse Armstead, a Hurricane linebacker. "I don't know how he takes it. We've got some animals -- it's ruthless."
"I have to listen to Bob Marley every night and chill," RohaMarley said. "I'm in a different vibe. It speaks truth when you listen to Bob Marley."
Straight ahead, Crimson Tide
Miami's defensive players are confident, but Hurricanes defensive coordinator Sonny Lubick isn't so sure the Hurricanes can stop Alabama.
The Crimson Tide features a powerful, straight-ahead running attack, the kind that has given Miami troubles this year.
"It's no secret," said Lubick, who has been hired as the new coach at Colorado State. "Penn State ran straight ahead on us. So did Syracuse. I'm concerned. We'll even go to an eight-man line to put them in passing situations."
Hurricanes beat Andrew, too
Hurricane Andrew is gone, but not forgotten by Miami players or coaches.
"I don't think anyone knows the devastation we went through with the hurricane in South Florida," said Dennis Erickson, Miami's coach. "You can't believe the things that the football team, my coaches and the families went through just to get here. Just overcoming that makes it the best season."
Away on Bourbon Street
Alabama coach Gene Stallings said he doesn't think of New Orleans as a home-field advantage for the Crimson Tide because of the proximity of the two states.
"I didn't consider Birmingham as a home game, then I sure don't consider New Orleans a home game," Stallings said. Some Florida staffers and fans considered Birmingham, site of the Southeastern Conference championship game, as unfair to the Gators. Alabama won, 28-21.
Flash, Bam, it's Superman
Miami's starting linebackers, Darrin Smith, Armstead and Micheal Barrow, call themselves "The Bermuda Triangle." They say once you go in, you don't come out. Each player also has a nickname. Smith's is "Flash," Barrow's is "Bam Bam" and Armstead's is "Superman."
Thumbs down on battle cry
Art Kehoe, the Hurricanes assistant offensive line coach, is the only member of the Miami staff who has been part of the four national championship teams of 1983, 1987, 1989 and 1991. He was a graduate assistant in 1983.
Yet Kehoe refuses to speak about "one for the thumb," a fifth national championship ring. It's been a familiar cry in Pittsburgh for the Steelers and a fifth Super Bowl victory.
"Don't talk to me about one for the thumb," said Kehoe, walking away. "The Pittsburgh Steelers are still waiting."