John Hunter sells hot dogs at Washington Federals games.He usually unloads two to three crates (of 36 hot dogs) a game. Lately, it's been more.

"It's picked up since they started winning. When they win, fans buy."

Hunter didn't have that much selling potential yesterday as only 11,039 fans showed up to watch the Federals win, 21-14, over the Philadelphia Stars at RFK Stadium.

But many of the people who trooped down to the Stadium in 92-degree heat were excited about the Federals and will be back next season. Season ticket holders Bill and Ann Slaughter of Stafford, Va., drove an hour to get to the game.

"I love football." said Bill."I think the Feds got what it takes, they've just had bad luck."

"They're improving," Ann said. "I like the way they stay in the game, even when they're losing by a lot. They never give up. That's impressive."

Six-year-old Scott Morrison was impressed by his first Federals game. "They play good," he said, sweating under his green Federals T-shirt. "Scotty wanted to come down," his father Paul said. "Me, I follow the New York Giants."

The man who started it, Federals owner Berl Bernhard, remains optimistic about next season. "We have a hard core base of 10-12,000 fans who are committed. Fans will come back if we upgrade ourselves."

Bernhard hopes to improve upon the more than 19,000 season tickets sold this season. He could use a few more such people as Colin and Marion Stiles, recently moved to the area from Melbourne, attending their first Federals games.

"We've been watching the games with our neighbors," said Colin, who works for the Australian embassy. "We can follow it, but we still miss the finer points. It's different than Australian rules football. We hope to go to the games next year, if we're still here."

Betty Clucas' daughter Shelly is one of the Federals cheerleaders. Betty Clucas has been watching games on TV from her Wheaton home. "It's worth it," she said. "I have to watch our daughter, these are her tickets. I just hope they're covered."

Another fan with more than a typical rooting interest, George Halfacre, who with his wife, Rene drove from Allentown, Pa., to watch Kim McQuilken as the Federals quarterback. Halfacre was McQuilken's high school coach.

Halfacre, who has followed the Stars this season, finds the USFL to be competitive, about on par with a "good college game. I think the level is like Division I football. They're very enthusiastic, not quite as polished as the NFL, and they're getting better."

The Foleys, Mike Sr. and Mike Jr., are season ticket holders from New Carrollton who plan to renew their tickets despite the Federals' poor showing this season. "Honestly, it was not good football," Mike Sr. said. "They were hurt by whoever started them. They need a lot of help."

Paul Love of Bethesda thinks so, too. He believes the Federals "will be back next year, but after that it's questionable. They've got to win if they're going to stick around."

Henry Rawl, who's been selling beer at RFK for 30 years, agrees with Love. "They need a winning streak. People like winners, they don't like losers.

"When you lose, nobody loves you."

"I love 'em," said Stanley Turner. "Look, they're a new team, an experiment. They've got problems on the offensive line. They just need more help around Craig James. They had something good this year. I think the league will work."

Andy Conlin, 8, and his brother Jeff, 5, had been watching on TV all year. "They're a whole lot better," Andy said. Jeff, wearing a Federals cap, squirmed uncomfortably.

Randy Dangerfield and his friends John Banks, Anthony Carlos, and John Boyd are big Craig James fans. "He's fantastic," said Banks. "I love him to death," said Carlos.

Why such big James fans?

"He gives us free tickets," said Dangerfield.