The Atlanta Braves just fizzled. A week ago they were three games out in the National League wild card race and poised for a charge.

Tim Hudson was rejoining an already excellent pitching staff. Nate McLouth was back from the disabled list to patrol center field. And the schedule was favorable.

But, forgetting how to hit with runners in scoring position, the Braves lost five in a row.

Most fans turned their attention quickly to college football. For post-season baseball, Braves fans will need to visit the new AAA stadium in suburbia.

Yet yesterday morning I pulled out and put on a Braves T-shirt and headed out the door for some early Labor Day exercise. I have disappointment but no shame in being a Braves fan.

This particular shirt notes the Braves arrival in Atlanta in 1966 — a monumental event in my life as a 10-year-old kid in the hills of North Georgia. I have been with them through the many lows and the great highs of 14 consecutive division titles and a world championship.

All the cliches apply to my allegiance: “Not a fair-weather fan.” “Sticking with them when they’re down.” “Loyal to the end.”

But whether in baseball or more important aspects of life (and there are a few), unconditional love has its rewards.

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