Golf Channel’s Limbaugh Experiment

When the Golf Channel went looking for a famous hacker to team up with a famous teacher in an effort to fill its ever-expanding need for programming, the network couldn’t have done any better than Charles Barkley. The former Round Mound of Rebound turned even rounder mound of sound, was the perfect foil for the straight-laced Hank Haney.

Season two saw a better golfer but less engaging Ray Romano exercising his swing and comedic chops on the channel that is always in need of some humor to break up the traditionally staid sport.

Year three will prove to be even more challenging. The Golf Channel has announced that right-wing windbag Rush Limbaugh will be next to tackle Haney’s challenging practice routine while attempting to eliminate strokes – and not audience members.

And that will be the big challenge. Limbaugh loves the game, plays often and will be featured on Golf in America, which is fine. He’ll talk about the game, what it means to him, then move on.

The Haney Project is different. While the show boasts the teach-er’s name, it is the student who is the star and it is their job to carry the program. The jury is out on whether Limbaugh can handle that critical role. If he can’t, season three may be the beginning of the end.

The Haney Project is a perfect example of how Golf Channel marries some of the biggest names in entertainment with golf to create fun, edgy programming,” said Tom Stathakes, Golf Channel senior vice president of programming, production and operations on golfchannel.com. “Rush Limbaugh is a major entertainer and personality, and he shares our passion for the game of golf, which is a great combination.”

Stathakes is correct about Limbaugh’s popularity. But he is also a very polarizing figure whom many viewers will refuse to watch. And while Golf Channel may enjoy producing “fun, edgy programming” – which is actually quite hard to find on the network – it would be wise to remember ESPN’s attempt to shake things up and get edgy with Limbaugh. What it got was controversy run amok after Limbaugh said the media was promoting Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb simply because of his race. He and an embarrassed ESPN soon parted company.

It’s too early to say the Limbaugh/Haney pairing will be a bust. Limbaugh does have an impressive following and PGA members are 95 percent Republican, support drilling in the Arctic, hate the inheritance tax, Obama’s health care plan and any putting surface that doesn’t roll as true as a pool table. So there may be some support.

But he is also despised by many, and that’s something of which the network must be very aware, and monitor with care.

Time will tell.

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