Too Much Respect

In 1992, before Alabama played Miami for its 12th national championship win in the Sugar Bowl the hype had reached epic proportions. There had been trash-talking encounters between Miami and Alabama players in the streets of New Orleans, and in the media, that made matters all the more exciting.

There was no respect and that was palpable.

The Hurricanes had on its team guys like Warren Sapp, Heisman trophy winning quarterback Gino Toretta, and the son of musical luminary Bob Marley, Rohan Marley. They all spoke their minds in the press and on the streets. According to a January 1993 Sports Illustrated article by Austin Murphy, six nights before the game Marley encountered Alabama offensive lineman Roosevelt Patterson in the French Quarter and told him, "You must be an offensive lineman, you fat, sloppy ——."

Miami even had a back up defensive end on its team that went on to make a fortune as a professional trash talker -- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Who says athletes don't learn anything in college?

The SI story claims that Alabama players kept quiet all week long, but that wasn't all true. Tide defensive back Antonio Langham did an interview with ESPN's Chris Fowler a couple of days before the game where he stated that the Miami trash talkers were "writing checks their behinds can't cash."

Langham was nervous after that because the coaching staff had advised them to save their responses for the game. When Alabama defensive backs coach Bill Oliver called Langham's name in the next team meeting, Langham thought he was in trouble. Instead, Oliver repeated the line Langham had given to ESPN and said, "Men -- I believe he's right."

Alabama's quarterback for that game, Jay Barker, wasn't known much as a trash talker but he did get off a good line reminding a reporter who used a biblical metaphor to describe how big an underdog Alabama was that, in fact, David beat Goliath in the Bible story and that was a comparison that Barker welcomed.

This week, where I was standing during the Alabama defensive press conference on Saturday in New Orleans, there was nothing said by anyone that will be remembered two days from now.

When someone asked Mark Barron what the key to the Tide's two interceptions in its first contest against LSU I wish he'd said, "That's easy. Jarrett Lee." But he didn't. He said it was about being in the right place at the right time and making the right reads and reacting to the ball, et cetera.

When the first question to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was, and I quote directly from the transcript provided, "Q.  Question about the morphing sort of ability of your players and that versatility of your players on the defense, how that sort of aids the overall cause and scheme of what you try and accomplish," I wish Smart would have pointed out that Alabama doesn't have a guy on the defense that can "morph" into a giant gooey blob to slow down the LSU runners, or one who can stretch into a 20-foot high windmill to block extra points and field goals.

I wish Smart would say that, yeah, Nick Saban can be a difficult man to work for but the pay is really good I'll be a head coach soon anyway, and besides, I'd much rather work for Saban than for a nincompoop like Les Miles. But he didn't.

Instead, at least where I stood today was full of compliments, platitudes, and boring ol' respect for the opponent.

I bet tomorrow during the coaches' final press conference before the game Nick Saban and Les Miles will have some interesting things to say. They are two of the most colorful characters in college football. But I wish they'd tell us if there's been some perceived slight they'll be able to drum up to get their guys fired up for Monday's game.

Otherwise, it seems like the football will just have to speak for itself.

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