NEW YORK -- Cynthia Alzado knows what people will think. They will call her a vengeful ex-wife.
She doesn't care.
The sun was shining on the tiny back yard of her Cedarhurst, Long Island, condominium Wednesday as her mood swung from regret to relief to rage. She had known Lyle Alzado since she was a teen-ager and classmate at Lawrence High School. They had lived together for 3 1/2 years before marrying in 1985.
The relationship and 15-month marriage was carried out in the fast lane. It was filled with violence. She said living with Alzado was both "heaven and hell." She spoke of beatings Alzado administered and of his drastic mood swings. She vividly remembers how her ex-husband first took steroids orally before injecting them. Yes, she remembers injecting him with the juice herself.
Those memories pale in comparison to the plight of her son, 9-year-old Justin, Lyle Alzado's only child. As Alzado battles brain cancer, his second wife is appalled by what she calls the father's lack of caring for his son. Last week, she saw Lyle being interviewed by ESPN's Roy Firestone. Up to that point, she suppressed her feelings about what she called Alzado's refusal to take a financial stake in his son's future. She alleges he has missed child support ($1,500 per month) and alimony payments ($1,000 per month) for 18 months, but now he is dying.
"How can you pressure him during a time like this?" she said.
But when she saw the interview, she snapped.
"The thing that made me wild was seeing him beg for money during the interview," she said. "Why should anyone help him? He doesn't help his own child. He's broke now. What about when he wasn't broke? Why wasn't something set up for this child? Why doesn't this child have the home he deserves? Forget about me, I don't matter. Why wasn't something provided for his own flesh and blood?"
Alzado's representative, Greg Campbell, had no comment.
Reports have indicated Alzado needs the money to pay his doctor bills. Cynthia Alzado doesn't dispute that, but she wonders why Lyle didn't provide for his son when he had money. Before she began living with him, Cynthia, 42, owned her own hair-cutting salon. Now, she provides for her son "week to week" by cutting hair, doing waitress work and "anything else that will keep us above water."
She said she began living with Alzado in 1981 at her place in Long Beach, L.I. Alzado was with the Cleveland Browns at the time and she would stay in Cleveland during the week. She saw him take pills and he told her they were steroids. She wasn't concerned until that summer when they decided to have a child. "I wondered if it would have any effect on a child," she said. "He called a doctor, who he said was with the Browns, and the man assured me steroids couldn't affect a baby."
Justin is a strong, healthy child. He does have an attention deficiency that requires tutoring, and Cynthia said he is in therapy to deal with the emotional strain of living without a father.
Cynthia thinks back to her days with Alzado and wonders how much the steroids influenced his moods. She remembers reading him a Sports Illustrated story on steroids and how they affected an athlete's life.
"He ignored it," she said. "He just said, 'Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.' I told him he could die. He said, 'If I die, I die.' "
She said Alzado was volatile after games, win or lose. There was always a pattern.
When they arrived home, Alzado would become violent. "He could walk into the house after a game, stop on a dime and, all of a sudden, he's grabbing my hair and throwing me across the room. The first real bad moment was before he left for the 1984 Super Bowl. He beat me. I don't even remember why. He would never beat me with his fists, just slap me around."
There was also a pattern to the relationship. After she was physically abused, Cynthia would leave him and Lyle would call asking her to come back. One time he bought her a white Rolls Royce to show his renewed affection.
After one of many split-ups, she went back to California to try to reconcile things. "The deal was I would live in our Manhattan Beach home and he would live somewhere else," she said. "We would both undergo counseling."
Alzado picked her and Justin up at the airport. He spent the night at the Manhattan Beach home and went to Raiders mini-camp the next day. When he returned home, according to Cynthia, he ate lunch and went into the bedroom to inject himself with steroids. Cynthia walked into the bedroom, sat down on the bed and told him she thought they agreed that he wasn't going to live under the same roof.
"He said he wasn't moving anywhere," she said. "I told him I couldn't live with him and even Greg [Campbell] agreed. He questioned me telling Greg and told me he was going to teach me to keep my mouth shut. He beat me, threw me across the room. This time I ended up in the hospital with a collapsed lung, a concussion and fractured ribs."
The stormy relationship ended in divorce and now Cynthia calls her time with Lyle Alzado "a blur." As Alzado fights for his life, she fights to provide for her son. Justin saw his father a few weeks ago in California and refuses to believe he will die.
"Things are difficult for him. He wonders why he doesn't have the same things other kids have," she said. "I started to realize I should tell him where the blame lies; maybe it's time for him to know.
"People love Lyle. They will probably ask what I did to make him hate me so much. I don't care what they think. Maybe we were the victims of steroid abuse. Lyle left victims on the football field, we were his victims off the field. He left us in his wake, he left his only child in his wake."