Neb. hot dog slinger explains his exit from game

generic hot dogs
P. Stephen Potter told CBS News why he believes he was forced to stop throwing hot dogs at the University of Nebraska football games.

(CBS News) Back in 1986, CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt introduced America to one of the greatest arms in football. P. Stephen Potter completed virtually every pass he threw.

But, now, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman says that he's had a change in fortune.

P. Stephen Potter in his prime hot dog throwing days. CBS

Our story tonight begins right where it began 25 years ago. "We stopped by Gothenberg, Neb. to meet P. Stephen Potter, attorney-at-law, and interview him on his specialty. Not law, his other specialty," Kuralt said in the original report.

"You take the hotdog and you have to put your finger so that when you throw it, it will spin end over end," Potter told Kuralt.

"On football Saturdays, P. Stephen Potter has closed his law office and traveled across the state to the University of Nebraska stadium to throw sizzling hot dog passes into the hungry stands," Kuralt explained. He was paid by airmail too.

This went on for exactly 36 years. Hartman explained that one year Potter was selling hotdogs, and the next year he was gone. Nobody knew where he went.

"That's basically what happened," Potter said.

Potter said in 2000 the university refused to issue him a vendor's permit. The official line was that they hadn't received his application, but Potter doesn't believe that.

Here's what Potter thinks happened: The year before, he wanted to bring his 3-year-old daughter into the game on his back. However, the athletic department said she needed a ticket.

"It kind of upset me," he admitted.

Not just kind of: He started really pressuring the university on this relatively silly issue. The next year, his application was lost. It's also important to note that about this same time, Potter got some competition in the stands.

"They had just developed the hot dog gun," he said.

The "viener schlinger" could throw futher than Potter with even better accuracy, and it didn't talk back to the administration. It was the final air-compressed blow to his career.

For a while, he threw at some private parties and did some nursing home gigs, but he never made it back again to college-level dog. He says there's a lesson in there for anyone who starts believing their own hype.

"It is so important that you don't start taking yourself too seriously. I actually expected this big backlash of 'Where's the hotdog man?'"

Before Hartman left, he played a little catch with Potter on main street, Gothenberg. Even after all these years you can still see traces of the all-American in Potter.

And Potter is all American. I mean, really -- football, hotdogs, automation taking jobs -- how much more American can you get?

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.