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Nationals Fans' Fervor Undented By the Facts

"The only words that really matter," he wrote underneath.

A few Nationals fans are starting to take their first steps, gingerly, toward complaining about the team. One of them is Ryan Moore, a College Park resident who has created an Internet blog called "Distinguished Senators."

Mikayla Childs, 4, with sister Alex, 7, and father Brad, gets an autograph from Nationals Manager Frank Robinson during spring training in Florida. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

Moore has referred to the Nationals' Endy Chavez as "Inning-Endy," referring to the outfielder's struggles as a hitter. And he has summarized, sarcastically, the ups and downs of the past five years of pitcher Esteban Loaiza, whom the Nationals recently signed as a free agent: "Not bad. Eh. . . . WOW!"

"I'm not a fortuneteller," Moore wrote in the blog, "but I wouldn't lay any money on WOW!" in 2005.

In a telephone interview, Moore said he is trying to wake up other Nats fans lost in a baseball fantasy.

"They're not thinking straight. They're not seeing things for what they are," he said. "It's like this team was given to us by the hand of God."

Psychologists who study fan behavior say there is a distinction between a new franchise's buzz and the true bond that connects some teams and their backers.

This bond is built over years, with fans gradually becoming addicted to the point of considering the team's wins and losses as their own. Side effects include wearing foam pieces of cheese on one's head if in Green Bay, Wis., and wearing a dress and a pig's snout to Redskins football games (in honor of "the Hogs," the offensive linemen during the team's glory years) if in Washington.

Such a bond also leads, inexorably, to fans who complain. They do it to cushion the psychological blow, experts say, to salvage their faith in a team by blaming defeat on one bad decision, player or manager.

" 'I can still think of us as being the better team,' " goes such a fan's thinking, explains Christian End, a professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. " 'It's just that we're managed by, you know, a dolt.' "

But for now, this kind of crankiness isn't coming naturally in the nation's newest baseball town.

Charlie Brotman, public address announcer for the Senators from 1956 to 1971, recalled a recent party full of Nats fans. They talked about baseball all night, he said, without ever really talking about the team.

"Nobody got into specifics," Brotman said. "The only conversation that anybody had was, 'Are you going to be there Opening Day?' "

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