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One month ago, they were America's Olympic heroes. Now they are Hollywood "talent." Dollar figures matter more than school figures. Agents do the coaching and sometimes the talking.

The gold rush happens every four years when contracts are signed, percentages are figured and potential is mined. It's called panning for Olympic gold.

Olympic athletes supposedly have a commercial half-life of about one month. Eric Heiden put himself on ice by going to Europe immediately after winning his fifth gold medal. "He's already missed the boat," said one agent.

Fame is fleeting, all right. Just ask Jim Craig. The U.S. hockey team won the gold medal on Feb. 24. On March 1, Craig started and won his first game in goal for the Atlanta Flames, and filmed a Coca-Cola commercial with his father.

They were "two guys with a lot to smile about": a reported three-year contract at $100,000 per year and an estimated $35,000 fee from Coke.

Just two weeks later, the New York Islanders scored five goals and shot him off cloud nine in his first start away from home. "Off it?" Craig said. "Who's had time to get on it?"

Cashing in is a national pastime.Athletes particularly must get it while they can. "There's nothing un-American about thinking money," said Art Kaminsky, the New York lawyer with a virtual monopoly on Lake Placid medalists.

True. But three months after she won her gold medal in 1976, Dorothy Hamill, who reportedly earns $25,000 a week from the Ice Capades, was pining for a day off to go to the beach.

Four years after Bruce Jenner became the box office smash of the Summer Olympics, he still has his Wheaties, but not his wife.

And for every Hamill and Jenner, there is a Dave Silk or a Willie Davenport.

Silk, one of five members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team now playing in the minors, signed with the New York Rangers, played two games, was sent down to New Haven and was arrested for urinating against a garage.

"It was a crushing blow, being sent down, after sort of being on a pedestal," he said. "I cried. You know, most people do."

Everywhere Willie Davenport goes, people want to know if he really called bobsledding "a rich, white man's sport."

"Even my parents asked," said Davenport, who says the remark was distored in news accounts."I have not met one person who did not bring it up. My baby's doctor said, 'Do you have to be white and Jewish to be a doctor?'"

It hurts Davenport that he now feels compelled to confide that his best friend in high school was white.

"Take a corporation that might have thought of me representing them," said Davenport, who runs his own plumbing supply company. "They may say, 'Hey, forget him, he's got racial problems.'"

The president had a crush on her. He told Linda Fratianne, the silver medalist in women's figure skating, that she was beautiful. He kissed her, perhaps thinking it would make it better.

And did it?

"No," she said.

A month later, two weeks after Fratianne finished third in the world championships and one week after she turned pro, the question now is whether her runner-up finishes will cost her in the market place.

Her agent, Norman Brokaw, vice president of the prestigious William Morris Agency who handles Gerald R. Ford and the 1972 Mark Spitz, says no.

Fratianne's father, Robert, said, "If Brokaw does half the things he says he's going to do, it won't make any difference. If it's not handled properly, she might lose three or four million."

Fratianne said, "The only difference between a silver and a gold is the color. Norman told me that."

Fratianne didn't go Hollywood when she signed with William Morris. She always was a California girl. Right now, she's feeling tired but "mellow." "It's like a big load has been taken off your shoulders. I'm a little bit tired of competing" and of "the skating world gossip."

Fratianne, who had four days off all last year, was going to take last weekend off. But, "I got a job," she said.

Sunday, she taped NBC's "The Big Show," Tuesday, she had surgery for the removal of an inflamed bursa sacu in her right foot. She will be in a cast for a week and off of skates for four.

In the meantime, Brokaw is on his toes. "I'm going to close a poster deal," he says. "I want that because there is a certain following for a poster. There is also money in it if you make the right deal."

Brokaw also is negotiating for "the right kind of book that will encourage young people to go into skating," and is "talking about a movie with Disney and several other studios." he also is thinking about TV specials.

And, of course, there are the ice shows. Brokaw said, "I have heard from all three, and two are strongly interested."

But Brokaw is also exploring other possibilities.

Eric Heiden came home Tuesday night. He has been in Europe since the Olympics, relaxing, having a good time. Two weeks ago, fans at the speed-skating world championships in The Netherlands thought he was too relaxed. They booed him when he lost the title he had held for three years.

Heiden and his five Olympic gold medals should be worth more in the marketplace than any Olympic athlete since Spitz. Brokaw, who negotiated Spitz's $7 million package, said, "The selling of Eric Heiden is estimated to be worth $2 million -- $400,000 per medal."

However, some agents believe the parade already has passed by Heiden, who will attend medical school in Norway next year. "He doesn't mean anything in this country," said one agent. "His remarks at the Olympics like, 'I'd rather have a warmup suit' buried him. People don't want to hear that."

The question is, does Heiden care? "The attention, the publicity, it gets to be a hassle," Heiden told Newsday's Pat Calabrai at a New York Islander hockey game. "As far as endorsements go, I don't care if I miss out on that stuff. I hope I do. It's a hassle. I can't get into it."

Herb Brooks, this is your life: A month ago, you were in Lake Placid. Your team won the gold medal in hockey. You went to Washington, met the president, accepted the acclaim of the nation. Twenty-four hours later, there is a "welcome home" in Minneapolis.

But you can't stick around to enjoy it. You go to Los Angeles, to do Carson and "Real People." You're on with a guy who had trained his cat to use and flush a toilet. Your wife, Patti, who could pass for Erma Bombeck, says "You've got class, Herb. Real class."

But the guy and the cat have no place to stay, so they move in with you. The guy is a religious zealot, a proselytizer and you stay up the whole night reading one of his books because, your wife says. "It was read the book or listen to the guy."

In the next two weeks, you will be in New York twice, Chicago twice and home twice. Then it's back to Los Angeles, where Mike Douglas awaits.

That's four talk shows, 16 banquets and nearly 10 speaking engagements in 30 days.

You are so busy your wife has to take a leave of absence from her nursing job to stay home with the kids. "He speaks 15 minutes and gets a few thousand dollars," she said. "I work nine hours and get a few hundred for giving baths."

Nearly everyone expects to see Brooks coaching in the NHL next season, except perhaps, Herb Brooks. The Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Flames and New York Rangers are reportedly interested in him. "Right now, I'm not too optimistic about it," he said earlier in the week.

Brooks spoke with four NHL teams before the Olympics and two teams since but says, "There are no firm offers," despite one report that he will talk contract with the Kings' owner, Jerry Buss, at the end of the season.

Brooks, who will be on the U.S. Olympic Committee payroll until May 1, currently is on leave from the University of Minnesota. He must let the university know soon whether he intends to return "because of recruiting.

"But, frankly," he said, "going back to the university is the third priority. Without being arrogant, there's really nothing left for me to accomplish there."

In Boston, they are singing a new song: "Where's My Father?" "It's a 'Brady Bunch', all-American-boy type thing," said Jim Craig for whom it was written.

Craig's father played the record so often his children hid it from him.

The one time Craig has been home since the Olympics, his father found him upstairs asleep with his arms around two of his brothers, age 17 and 19.

Craig, one of seven Olympians playing in the NHL, is tired. He feels like an old man, he says. He wouldn't mind trading places with Huey, his dog, for a day. "He doesn't answer the phone," said Craig, who does.

"I've had no time to myself," he said. "I've been working 15 hours a day. To a lot of people I'm a hero, so I have to be there for them. They need somebody like that."

Craig says he intends to say no to most of the commercial offers he has received. "I'm just going to go with class," he said, "and only a few."

Craig says the Coke commercial, filmed with his father "really sends chills down my spine. I don't think of it as just a commercial."

Craig's mother died three years ago of cancer. Her absence at Lake Placid is what made his father's presence so important (the elder Craig has a serious heart condition).

"I believe she's in a better place," Craig said. "But then I'm not sure.

I Craig said. "But then I'm not sure. That's why I had to make sure I saw my father. I was looking through my father for my mother."

Next time, if there is a next time, they should skate to "the Unfinished Symphony." But Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia do not know whether they will compete in pairs figure skating this year. They will decide after April 10, when they will make their first public appearance since Gardner's groin injury forced them out of the Olympics.

Babilonia said, "I'd like to give it another try but I don't know if I could be at my best. I don't know if I could love it again."

Gardner said, "Mentally, it would be very, very hard with all the pressure of a comeback."

The injury is healed but the hurt continues. "I have flashbacks of my falling in warmup and looking up at her landing and me on my backside," he said.

She has flashbacks, too -- twice a day. They have been a pair for so long, they mirror each other in thought as well as movement. He wants to go back to USC. She wants to enroll there, too.

Ironically, not skating in the Olympics may have increased their market value. One agent estimated that they could get $40,000 a week for a 36-week tour in a show. "They could never have beaten the Russians unless it was an awful fluke," he said. "And had they lost, they'd be nothing."

Gardner laughed. "Yeah, people tell us it's better than a silver but not as good as gold."

He added, "I don't know if we want to be bound to a show. If we decide not to compete, we might skate a limited amount and go back to school."

They are now skating 2 1/2 hours a day, a luxuriously light schedule.

But they and the Soviets withdrew from the world championships, leaving "a big question mark," according to Babilonia.

It is a question Gardner is prepared to leave unanswered. "After what happened to us," he said, "you have to let things go."

There is something especially heroic about an athlete who knows when to quit. "There's a time when you know it's time to stop," said Mike Eruzione, captain of the U.S. hockey team.

"I'm not a great hockey player but I'm decent. I know I would have had to struggle every night in the NHL. I don't think I had that in me."

A lot of people would not have had it in them to say no to four NHL teams. "It was a gutsy thing to do," said Jim Craig. A lot of people would have deluded themselves."

"I don't know if it was gutsy or just intelligent," Eruzione said.

"Nobody will look back at my career and compare it to anything but the gold medal. That's the way it will be remembered . . . unless, of course, I rob a bank."

He won't have to. His lawyer, Bob Murray, has been handling hundreds of requests for his services. He wants to go into broadcasting. Coke is interested in a commercial and Eruzione says, "Jimmy has one. I want one, too."

Patti Brooks says Eruzione received $10,000 for a weekend of lectures for IBM. "I didn't do it for free," he said. "But I don't think it was $10,000. Bobby knows the figures."

Murray declined comment.

Since the Ollympics, Eruzione's life has been a series of one-night stands: New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago. He's having a terrific time, but he misses the guys, "the way a little kid misses his blanket."

In Chicago, he met Walter Cronkite, the nation's security blanket. "I said, 'wow, Walter, this is bigger than meeting the president.' I mean I can relate with Walter. The president is the president" . . . I don't mean to say he's (Cronkite) more important . . . but he's probably more popular."

The captain, of course, received a phone call from the president at Lake Placid, immediately after the team won the gold medal. "The president wished me luck," Eruzione recalled "and I said, 'good luck to you too.' Then I thought, 'oh, my god, Boston, Teddy Kennedy, the election."

"That was scary. It reminds me of a Jerry Lewis movie where he's an astronaut with Connie Stevens and gets to talk to the President. You just don't do that. A guy from Winthrop, Mass., just doesn't do that."

Sometimes, it's the things a person does not do that makes him what he is Eruzione did not try to do what he could not do.

"I said, 'Mike, you can't do it (make the pros). Winning the gold medal is a dream of an athlete. I don't want to tarnish it."