Usually, an athlete knows the end of his career is in sight, if not imminent, when he asks for a multiyear contract, Could Billy Kilmer be telling us something?

Kilmer always has taken special pride in negotiating one-year contracts, giving a strong figurative stiff-arm to that ally called security. Now, slightly more than three months before his 40th year, he wants a two-year contract.

And more assurances than a rational coach such as Jack Pardee can possibly offer. While testing Padree to check his status, Kilmer got that rarity from a Redskin coach - an honest answer. He still may be quivering from the shock.

The Allen-like posture for Pardee when Kilmer threw his latest public tantrum would have been: "Of course, Billy's my No. 1 quarterback. He beat the Rams in the last game of the season, didn't he?"

Instead, Pardee praised Kilmer - and deservedly so - but said his incumbent quarterback must do more than snap on his chin strap during training camp to remain the starter. In truth, Joe Theismann would be given every chance to beat out Kilmer this year even if George Allen had returned as coach.

Kilmer missed six games last season. For the first time in 10 years, he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes. For the first time in 11 years, he failed to pass for 1,200 yards. For the first time in seven years, he failed to throw 10 touchdown passes.

Both Kilmer and Theismann have managed to help thwart an oderly quarterback transition just when that has seemed ready to take place in prior years, Kilmer by throwing touchdown passes when he shouldn't be walking and Theismann through a variety of errors.

Theismann could have all but assured himself of starter status had the Redskins won two important games last season, against the Dallas Cowboys at home and against the Colts in Baltimore. They lost each time.

These pouts by Kilmer are getting a bit tiresome, even to those who admire his unique football flair. When he suggests the Redskins trade him, the immediate question is: what would anyone give for him?

The answer: a second-round draft choice, maybe. He is too valuable to the Redskins, as a starter or in relief, for that sort of exchange.

Still, Kilmer has earned the two-year contract he seems to want, because of loyalty and performance. He has taken as much abuse from the area as he has given thrills. And the Redskins have won three of ever four games with him at quarterback.

But Allen never hesitated to yank Kilmer when that was to his advantage. Had Theismann been ready to be the starting quarterback, he would have been the starting quarterback. As usual, the burden of proof remains his, although now he figures to get the benefit of most doubts.

Steve Cauthen is known is "The Kid." But a kid from Laurel, Gino Alongi, managed to play out a fan's fantasy at the Preskness by being brash and confident at the proper times.

You may have seen 12-year-old Gino Saturday, especially if you watched the Preakness on television. He was the small fellow with the purple T-shirt and baseball cap worn backwards who seemed so out of place in the winner's circle of such a prestigious race.

In fact, he was out of place. But confusion at those times is so great that everyone assumes everyone else there belongs. Memory suggests the owners of Affirmed had confused looks on their faces while standing next to Gino, but they merely passed him down the line a place or two and allowed the group photo to be taken.

Most of the more than 80,000 Pimlico customers would have paid handsomely for such a brush with the rich and famous. How did Gino, with neither credentials nor important relatives, pull it off?

Well, Gino's father, Charles, is an owner-trainer, with a one-horse stable at the moment, so there was access to usually restricted areas. While drifting through the Preakness barn grounds, Gino met Affirmed's trainer, Laz Barrera, and got his autograph.

"Then I went into the infield area," Gino said yesterday, "and came back to his (Barrera's) barn before the third race. I started asking questions. He said I was the best news reporter there."

That was not necessarily a compliment. When Gino asked if he could accompany Barrera and Affirmed to the saddling area just before the race, however, the trainer said no. But Gino did sit in Barrera's box for the race and went with the trainer to the track after Affirmed won.

Having gotten to a special level with his new friend, Barrera, Gino climbed even higher with an even newer friend, Cauthen, whose autograph he had been too shy to get himself before the Washington, D.C. International last year.

By seeming to belong, Gino managed to join the heavily guarded Cauthen through the grandstand crowd and onto an elevator to the press box. He was at Cauthen's side during a 15-minute interview and late rplayed pool with Cauthen's brother in the jockeys' room.

"I'd never met any of those people before," Gino said. "You bet I was happy. Mr. Barrera even gave me $20. And he said I'd better root for him in the Belmont Stakes."