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NFL's marquee teams find support all over

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NFL's marquee teams find support all over

PITTSBURGH (AP) Casey Hampton can hear the chant. It never fails.

Regardless of the venue. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the circumstances. Preseason or the Super Bowl. Heinz Field or Houston.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers are leading late in the fourth quarter, the sound of ``Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go!'' while thousands of Terrible Towels twirl will reverberate inside the veteran nose tackle's helmet.

``Our fans are going to stay until the end,'' said Hampton, who has watched the phenomenon since his rookie year in 2001. ``They're going to ride with us. A lot of times, especially when you're winning at the end, when the home fans clear out they'll still be there doing their thing.''

It happened Sunday in New York during Pittsburgh's 24-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants. At a stadium typically swathed in blue, the roar for the Steelers grew so loud at one point quarterback Ben Roethlisberger actually had to put his hands up to ask for quiet.

Coach Mike Tomlin wasn't joking when he said recently the self-appointed ``Steeler Nation'' is everywhere.

Whether it's folks traveling from Pittsburgh to watch the black-and-gold or western Pennsylvania transplants who fill their nearest NFL stadium when the black-and-gold visit is unclear.

What is clear is the backing the Steelers and other marquee NFL teams receive when they don their visiting uniforms is growing.

The explosion in the secondary ticket market combined with the league's ever expanding popularity and just plain old family ties means for teams like the Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, home-field advantage isn't limited to game days where the players wake up in their own beds.

The ubiquitous Terrible Towels mean the support that greets the Steelers on the road is a little more visible than most, but Pittsburgh isn't the hardest road ticket in the league according to brokerage site Stubhub.

Even with the Cowboys stumbling to a 3-5 start, watching them on the road will cost about $196 a ticket if you go through Stubhub according to spokesperson Joellen Ferrer. The Steelers are the second-most expensive at $190.

It's simple supply and demand. The brighter the name, the more difficult the get. The Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers and Bears are the five toughest road tickets in the NFL for Stubhub customers.

All five have a proud history littered with championships - 20 Super Bowls and counting - and dozens of Hall-of-Fame players, teams whose fandom is handed down generation to generation or in the case of Brad Stoller, from wife to husband.

The 48-year-old Stoller grew up in Indiana rooting for the Cowboys long before the Colts fled Baltimore for the Midwest. Dallas was at its ``America's Team'' zenith at the time, the franchise's mix of on field success and steady stream of national television appearances making the Cowboys pretty easy to keep up with in a time when fans outside NFL markets were at the mercy of the local TV station to see what game would get beamed into their living rooms on a given week.

The combination of Jerry Jones' arrogance and his wife Amy's lifelong devotion to the Steelers led Stoller to switch allegiances. Now he runs a Steelers Fan Facebook page that features more than 98,000 likes from all over the globe.

There are over 1,500 Pittsburgh Steelers bars scattered across the country, with high concentrations in retirement destinations like Florida, Arizona and Southern California, as the fans who watched the Super Steelers win four Super Bowls in the 1970s gather to enjoy the latest renaissance that's seen two more Lombardi Trophies added in the last seven seasons thrust in by satellite.

``What I've found, there's a tremendous number of people, maybe they grew up in Pittsburgh, but somewhere there's a connection with Pittsburgh,'' Stoller said. ``They may live in Florida today, but when their Steelers are around, they try to make it to the game.''

Stoller tries to make a handful of games every fall. Tickets are easy to come by if he's willing to pay the premium. The three-hour ride from Lafayette, Ind., to Cincinnati has become an annual pilgrimage for both Stoller and Steelers fans from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio who can't get into the perennially sold-out home games.

When Pittsburgh beat the Bengals last month, Stoller estimates 40 percent of Paul Brown Stadium came dressed in some variation of black-and-gold. The lack of steady home presence for one of the league's underachieving franchises - Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game in 22 years- allows Steelers fans to overwhelm the market.

Every game in Cincinnati follows a similar pattern. The Bengals fans arrive chanting ``Who Dey.'' Then Cincinnati starts to falter.

``In the fourth quarter it gets real quiet before the Steelers start driving,'' Stoller said. ``Then we start chanting `We Dey.'''

The experience is worth the hit to the wallet, though Stoller allows there is one thing about going through Stubhub that bothers him.

``The unfortunate thing for people is that tickets are always three times higher priced for the Steelers, then as soon as they leave, you want a ticket to a Bengals game the following week and they can't give `em away,'' he said with a laugh.

It's hardly a phenomenon unique to Cincinnati. Jacksonville, Kansas City and the New York Jets - who have two combined Super Bowl titles among them - struggle to keep home fans interested when things go south.

Need proof? Tickets for the Bengals-Chiefs game on Nov. 18 start at $7.

Yes, $7. A decent meal at any stadium will cost you double that.

Compare that to the $26 minimum when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos play in Kansas City the next week, a cost that is likely to go up if the AFC West-leading Broncos continue to roll.

``Most (Stubhub sellers) are season ticket holders who want to recoup some of their initial investment,'' Ferrer said. ``They want to retain their season seats and have that camaraderie but they realize they can also resell their tickets when the big team comes to town.''

All that selling can have a significant impact on the game.

When the Denver Broncos stormed past San Diego last month, the crowd at Qualcomm Stadium began roaring ``defense'' when the hometown Chargers tried to mount a late rally.

``It's impressive because there's a select few teams in the NFL that have that,'' Denver tight end Jacob Tamme said. ``And down in the lower level, you know? So, not only is it impressive but it's one of those things that you can feed off of on the road, so that's a pretty unique thing.''

Living on the other side of the coin can be a rude awakening.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Corey Williams used to get a kick out of seeing foam Cheeseheads scattered through the stands wherever the Packers played during his four seasons with Green Bay from 2004-07.

``It was amazing to go into the stadium and the majority of the Packers (fans) were there and to hear them yell, `Go Pack Go!' louder than the home team fans was kind of fun,'' Williams said.

Now he sees the green-and-gold army invade Ford Field every winter and braces for a hostile environment in what's supposed to be friendly territory. Yet he's come to expect it. So has Hampton, who knows a sea of waving yellow hand towels await the Steelers when they travel to Cleveland in a few weeks.

``You know they're gonna be there,'' Hampton said. ``I can't explain it. It's just always been that way. And you know, we'll take it.''

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Arnie Stapleton, AP national writer Nancy Armour and AP sports writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby Win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver named 2018 WNBA All-Stars

On Tuesday, the WNBA revealed the list of 22 players selected by fans, WNBA players and head coaches and media for Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018. 

Two Washington Mystics will be featured in the July 28 showcase at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Elena Delle Donne is making her fifth All-Star appearance and serving as one of two team captains, while Kristi Toliver earns the honor for her second time, and first since 2013. 

Delle Donne recorded her 3,000th career point Sunday night becoming the fastest player in WNBA history to reach the milestone with a 23-point performance in a loss to the Atlanta Dream. It was just the 148th game of her career. 

The 28-year-old is averaging 20.6 points, good for fourth in the league. 

Toliver is averaging 14 points and 4.2 assists. The former Maryland Terrapin is also just a week removed from making her debut as part of the Wizards coaching staff during Las Vegas Summer League. 

The Mystics are 13-9 and atop the eastern conference by 0.5 games. The last time the team had two all-stars was in 2015, when Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meesseman played together.

For ticket information about Verizon WNBA All-Star 2018, fans may visit lynx.wnba.com/allstar/.