There are many reasons to mourn the end of Eastbound & Down. Danny McBride’s easy, almost casual hilarity, the show’s odd, un-TV-like pace, and the sheer thrill of seeing Will Ferrell on television will all be missed.
But there’s also another thing that the HBO series will take with it when its finale airs tonight, and that’s baseball — or, more specifically, baseball’s place in pop culture.
For years — even decades — people have talked about baseball losing its mantle as America’s favorite pastime, but the topic has flared up again in the past few months. National ratings are down, even for postseason games, while professional and college football continue to dominate; this year’s World Series ratings were among the lowest ever, while the past several Super Bowls ranked as the most-watched events in TV history. These figures have renewed the contentious debate about baseball’s supposed decline, with some pundits declaring it culturally irrelevant and others arguing that it’s healthier than ever.
We’ll leave the in-depth sports analysis to the in-depth sports guys. But if you were to use the likes of TV shows and movies to assess the game’s popularity, well, it does seem like baseball is losing the good fight. And now with Eastbound & Down leaving us, our pastime’s cultural footprint threatens to become that much smaller.