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Why the Wall Street Journal let its sports columnist get high on the job

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It may be one of the best headlines of the year: “When Boxing Goes Low, I Go High.”

“I wrote that headline!” said Gay on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. Below the headline, he commemorated Las Vegas’ recent legalization of recreational marijuana by eating pot gummies and then covering the much-hyped Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor boxing match.

Much as he might want to be compared to the legendary gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, though, Gay said the whole affair was carefully thought out ahead of time.

“It was a fully vetted idea,” he said. “I quite literally went to my editor, and I said, ‘I want to do this.’ He said, ‘That’s a good idea! But we gotta run it by a few more folks,’ so it went to the muckety-mucks upstairs. It went to the lawyers, I believe.”

“The general conclusion was that I had very limited legal exposure, perhaps federal prosecution, were someone to decide to make an issue of it,” Gay added. “But the damage, most likely, would be ‘reputational.’”

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On the new podcast, Gay explained why he chose gummies (they allowed him a “degree of subterfuge”) and why he’s glad he did it.

“You only get one chance to do this,” he said. “I’m going to have to live with the fact that every sports writer I run into for the next 20 years is going to be like, ‘Are you going to write about this high?’ It’s just going to stick with me a little while. But I thought it was giving the McGregor-Mayweather fight, which was this absurd thing to begin with, the proper respect it deserved.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

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  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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