When Lyle Alzado was traded from pro football’s Cleveland Browns to the L.A. Raiders in 1982, one opposing coach deemed it “the perfect marriage—the kind they make in Hell.” That’s melodramatic, maybe, but accurate. The brash, bruising, 6’3″, 265-pound defensive end appeared to fit right into Raider boss Al Davis’ evil empire. In ’82 Alzado and teammate Ted Hendricks led the team in sacks. Last year he was instrumental in the Raiders’ drive to the NFL championship. This season, as the Raiders open their assault on a second-straight Super Bowl, the infernal marriage still seems to be perfect. The Raiders are a team of self-styled misfits, and the 35-year-old maniacal-looking Alzado makes himself out to be a kind of sociopathic Will Rogers. “I never knew a man,” he jokes, “that I didn’t want to fight.”
But lately some ugly rumors have surfaced about Alzado. Nasty, vicious, hair-raising stuff like:
•The guy is a secret quiche eater. This one started after the Raiders humiliated the Redskins 38-9 in last season’s Super Bowl. As the game ended, Alzado—a 14-year veteran who once played for the Denver Broncos—started crying. It was his first Super Bowl win. “I was swept away with the beauty of it all,” he sheepishly explains.
•If it weren’t for the soul-deadening game of football, he ‘d be pursuing a career in modern dance. A particularly vicious canard. “Football saved me from myself,” says Alzado. He was born in Brooklyn’s crime-ridden Brownsville section, the son of a boozing, brawling Spanish-Italian father and a Jewish mother. He grew up in affluent Cedar-hurst, L.I.—on the poor side of town. “I’d be wearing these old, dirty pants to school, and the other kids would be driving fancy cars,” he remembers. “As long as I could kick their asses, I felt I was as good as they were.” He’s been involved in at least one stabbing and numberless fistfights—and he’s no stranger to jail. “By the age of 15,” recalls old friend Ken Leistner, “all the adults were scared of him.” He still is estranged from his father, to whom he hasn’t spoken since he was 19.
•He’s a sap for kids. This rap is dead on. Alzado was about to enter the Marines when he was offered a scholarship to tiny Yankton College in South Dakota—the only school willing to take a chance on his jail record and abysmal grades. One day he was approached in the gym by a mentally retarded little girl. “I told her that I couldn’t play kickball with her, that it was a game for kids,” he remembers. “She got all sad and said, ‘Mister, how come no one ever wants to play with us?’ ” From then on he realized “there was more to life than sacking a quarterback.” Alzado took his degree in special education and has won several community-service awards. “Lyle never had anything as a kid,” says his second wife, Cindy, “so he can relate to a kid with problems.”
•He’s gone “Hollywood.” Okay, he lives in a four-bedroom beach home and owns a Ferrari, a Jaguar and a 55-foot cabin cruiser. He’s acted in bit parts on TV, is writing an autobiography and has just released an aerobics video. He’d like to act more but keeps encountering, well, etiquette problems. The first time he went for a reading, he found the director “stuffing his face” with his lunch. Recalls Alzado: “I yelled, ‘Hey, you bleeping pig, did I come here to read for a part or to watch you eat?’ ”
•He’s calmed down a lot. Sure. Just ask Police Lieut. Jim Dawson. Alzado got into a traffic accident earlier this summer in Santa Monica. “Mr. Alzado said he got out of his car to talk with the driver of the other car and the man in the passenger seat reached across to take a punch at him,” says Dawson. A full-scale fight ensued. The police arrived but the participants ignored them. “So one of the officers hit Mr. Alzado with his nightstick to get his attention,” recalls Dawson. “Mr. Alzado said, ‘Ohhhh,’ kind of like the Incredible Hulk, and said, ‘Oh, it’s you guys.’ ” The fracas continued—briefly.
Next Sunday the Raiders face the Green Bay Packers. They’re over there, Lyle. Get ’em.