A Ring Wrapped In Mystery

Putin on the Ritz: Patriots owner and paper magnate Robert Kraft, left, keeps an eye on his Super Bowl ring, held by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin on the Ritz: Patriots owner and paper magnate Robert Kraft, left, keeps an eye on his Super Bowl ring, held by Russian President Vladimir Putin. (By Alexander Zemlianichenko -- Associated Press)
By Sally Jenkins
Thursday, June 30, 2005

I can't stop thinking about that ring. I've tried in vain to concentrate on other more important topics, but it's no use. All I do is wrack my spacious head wondering how Bob Kraft's New England Patriots Super Bowl ring, all five carats of it, wound up in Russian President Vladimir Putin's pocket.

At least it wasn't Kraft's wedding ring. You think Mrs. Kraft would have bought that age-old "The Kremlin has it" excuse?

I know there are more pressing problems in the world. The shakeup of the spy agencies. That scary Scrushy jury. Tom Cruise's chemical imbalance. (What do you think is wrong with Jack-o'-lantern Boy, by the way?) And I know there is more compelling sports news. The Washington Wizards drafted another high schooler, causing us to worry that everyone in the organization is suffering from some new waterborne repetitive disorder. And we are in the middle of another dying Wimbledon tournament, which packs all the drama of a change in exhibitions at the Smithsonian. But I just can't stop thinking. About that ring.

I keep imaging the moment. One minute you're showing off your bauble. And then next minute the president of Russia, a man not to be toyed with, is hinting that he really, really likes it. What do you do?

You make an impromptu international offering of peace, is what you do.

Kraft didn't set out to give the ring away. It's unclear exactly what happened. It was one of those international, lost-in-translation episodes, and the oddest moment in sports this week, an NFL owner giving a Super Bowl ring to a world leader.

"I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring," Kraft said in a statement released Wednesday. The Russian president "was clearly taken with its uniqueness," Kraft said. "At that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin."

Kraft was attending a meeting between Putin and American business executives at Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg last Saturday when it happened. Kraft, who in addition to owning the Patriots is also a paper magnate and a venture capitalist, apparently showed off his 4.94-carat, diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring to the Russian president.

Can't you see it? Don't you wish you were in the room so you knew what really happened? Maybe Kraft did that thing that guys with large rings do, especially rings that say you won something big. He just couldn't help himself. He thumped it on the nearest wooden table. And then he said, "Wanna feel the weight?" Or something to that effect. And he slipped it off his finger, and he offered it to Putin.

How did the conversation go? Was it like one of those awkward exchanges between Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev thirty-plus years ago?

Putin: Is gift, no?

Kraft: No.

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