The Atlanta Braves lost again on Sunday, their 11th defeat in the last 14 games.

Their recent troubles mark another bad spell in a season that hasn’t been the easiest for fans — certainly not for those acclimated to the typical regular season cruise that marked most of the past 15 years. There were rough stretches in those seasons too, but a losing record in April and few signs of an upswing so far this month don’t offer much encouragement.

However, when I met up with a couple of old friends in Atlanta last week and watched the Braves lose 5-2 to the Washington Nationals to wrap up a disappointing 2-8 homestand, we left the ballpark anything but unhappy.

And that’s despite the fact that you can count me among those who remember the Braves more as winners than losers.

The Braves spoiled me in 1991 with the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended because it was the night before they clinched the division title to start their current run of 14 straight. It was a first glimpse at how transcendent sports can be, watching strangers greet each other with Tomahawk Chops and high-fives after a victory over the Houston Astros that signaled those long-suffering fans were on the verge of relief.

I jumped on Atlanta’s buggy in 1990 just before it became a bandwagon, drawn in through baseball cards and learning enough about the game to enjoy its deliberate pace. In defense, I was a member of the Braves’ Peter Pan Peanut Butter fan club during the mostly forgettable 1980s — the hat that came with the membership is somewhere in my parents’ attic.

Any worries about the Braves’ present fortunes are minimal, though, mostly because they always figure out a way to set things straight in time, but also because of the recent visit to Turner Field.

We stepped into the stadium last Wednesday evening just in time to see the back of Braves broadcaster Pete Van Wieren’s head as he walked toward Scout’s Alley, and halfway expected to find Skip Caray ordering a hot dog or Don Sutton handing out pitching tips at one of the games on the park’s midway-like concourse.

From there, we passed the sideshow behind center field — a crowd watched fans play a variation of “Name That Tune” — and made the climb up to Section 433 and the proletariat of the upper deck. It’s the same game, just a different view. The need to be right down the first base line has long been exchanged for a slightly heavier wallet and more entertaining fans.

Rewards were abundant in that regard.

Among the highlights were a spectator’s repeated attempts to start the wave with little help outside his own party. It was fun to watch him try while listening to verbal jabs offered by what appeared to be one of only four Nationals fans in the section and witnessing the dogged determination of one young woman to garner face time on television.

Following the example of the since-departed Sheff’s Chefs, who supported right fielder Gary Sheffield while he was in Atlanta, there’s a contingent latched onto catcher Brian McCann. They call themselves McCann’s Cans and were camped out at the top level one section over, despite the fact that their favorite player was rehabbing in Rome.

There were also Edgar’s Eggs (for shortstop Edgar Renteria) in the same perch on the opposite side of the stadium, but sadly, a buddy mused, no LaRoche’s Roaches (for first baseman Adam LaRoche) in sight.

The fan determined to enjoy a few seconds of fame had borrowed one of the can costumes and moved near the overhang’s rail where she bounced, yelled and begged for attention from a ballpark camera. She even made repeated requests for an usher to radio a camera operator.

After the better part of the seventh and eighth innings, she gave up her quest. She made one last little hop-dance on her way up the steps, forcing a smile through an otherwise pouty face and looked ready to cry. It was a sad time, seeing such a major source of entertainment leave.

It would be easy to get uppity about fans who come to the game just to be on TV or frown because scoreboard races and modified shell games on the centerfield video screen were cheered just as loudly as Pete Orr’s pinch-hit homer in the seventh to cut Washington’s lead to one.

No complaints here. The fan-watching aspect of going to a game is as much fun as any talk about the nuts and bolts of baseball, and those were had too: a debate on the mistake of the Braves not having Wilson Betemit in the starting lineup every day, some talk about baseball’s continued troubles with performance-enhancers.

And we left Turner Field upbeat, knowing that enjoying baseball isn’t something that happens only when your favorite team is winning.

Shoot, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the carnival that surrounds a baseball game as well as the game itself.

If only the Braves’ bullpen would cooperate.

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