How Minneapolis' awful Super Bowl XXVI halftime show changed the game

"Go Frosty, go Frosty, go!"

"Go Frosty, go Frosty, go!"

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2016.

The Super Bowl is anticipated every year, but its halftime show has already jumped the shark. No, we're not just talking about the insane celebrity clusterfuck we witnessed last year with Katy Perry, Missy Elliott, and Lenny Kravitz screaming along with cartoonishly anthropomorphic beach balls and palm trees.

The mid-game entertainment actually hit its low point in Minneapolis in 1992, when a sub-par production brought the super-creative theme of winter to the Metrodome. The resulting performance was so abysmal it spurred the NFL to rethink the halftime experience entirely, but more on that in a bit. 

First, let's go back to Minneapolis, January 26, 1992. That's when Timberline Productions held their halftime spectacle for Super Bowl XXVI, the first-ever championship game hosted by Minnesota. The entertainment company apparently took one look at Minneapolis and thought, “Whoa, snow!" Their creative impulses started and stopped with that realization. 

Riding on a weak theme of “Winter Magic,” the show starts with cheesy ice graphics, revealing Olympic figure skaters Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano inviting you to Minnesota, “where winter’s the hottest time of the year.” The rest of the show unravels as if its creators based the entire production on that one pun.  

After off-center cheerleaders hastily form into "winter" and "magic," a big band breaks into a rendition of “Winter Wonderland."  

It gets better (worse): Kids rap about snowmen in “Do the Frosty.” Dancers storm the field in gaudy parachute pants. Players from the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic hockey team hold sparklers as Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” plays for some reason. Then Gloria Estefan takes the stage. After dutifully singing (lip-syncing?) along to karaoke versions of “Live for Loving You” and “Get On Your Feet,” she finishes with a reprisal “Winter Magic.”

No amount of frigid wonder and Gloria Estefan could keep viewers tuned into CBS for the halftime show, which got beat out in the ratings by a live In Living Color special on FOX. 

Minneapolis' Super Bowl XXVI halftime show was another dud in a string of late-‘80s and early-‘90s flops. Back then, the stage that Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars will rock Sunday was once dominated by the likes of George Burns, Mickey Rooney, the cult-like smile parade that is Up with People, and a lame magic trick from impersonator/magician Elvis Presto.

The next year, the NFL nixed Timberline and grabbed Michael Jackson for a guaranteed smash, ushering in the “Retrain-Your-Bladder Era" of Super Bowl halftime shows, to borrow the Washington Post's framing. After the Metrodome game, the show turned into a star-studded cavalcade featuring everyone from Stevie Wonder to Britney Spears to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, ballooning every year into the overstimulating sharkfest we know and love today.

Our dearly departed stadium never hosted the game again, but Minneapolis gained back a little halftime cred in 2007, when Prince ripped through “Purple Rain” in a Miami downpour. The Super Bowl will return to Minnesota in 2018 at brand-new U.S. Bank Stadium. Let’s hope the stadium's “Built for the Bold” theme leads to a better song-and-dance number than “Winter Magic.”