Kraft's ring story creates controversy

Robert Kraft's version of why he doesn't have a fourth Super Bowl ring caused an international controversy … or at least a headline during a slow NFL news period.

Ordinarily, VU doesn't devote too much time on other teams, unless there is a direct correlation to the Vikings. Seeing as the rest of the NFL is cleansing its palate of hard news, we've opted to do a film-study breakdown of a story that really shouldn't go by without comment.

For the last decade plus, the New England Patriots have been the pre-eminent NFL franchise in an era of parity. But how often does an off-the-cuff comment renew the Cold War between two nations?

In 2005, Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and patriarch of the Kraft empire that doesn't involve Velveeta, visited the former Soviet Union and the Russian President Vladmir Putin. Kraft was living large among the most well-heeled of Americans – the 1 percent that are currently the national debate regarding how much of their fortunes should be given back to the societal have-nots. He was part of an elite group of American businessmen that visited Putin in Moscow. Therein lies the controversy – eight years later.

The difference between Kraft in Moscow and the rest of his pocket square-in-the-$10,000 suit crowd in 2005 was that he had "bling." The Iron Curtain got a taste of hand jewelry – and, by Kraft's account, they liked it. Up to and including the Russian president, who likely waited years to get in a car in the former Soviet system when he was a young adult.

The difference between the Robert Kraft in 2005 and Kraft in 2013 is his selective memory – and the lack of a replacement ring.

Over the weekend, an international dust-up took place because Kraft decided to fire a shot across the bow of a boat long-since mothballed.

To do a little history-based "coach's clicker" breakdown, Kraft emerged from the Iron Curtain in 2005 telling "Bah-ston Southies" that Putin was so impressed with his bling – Kraft's third jewel-encrusted Super Bowl ring in four years that he committed the ultimate sin – he parted with his ring expecting to get another.

Apparently the chill of offseason New England winters – the extent to which Kraft endures on an irregular basis – has made him lonely for the replacement ring that was going to be his legacy. Historians would ask, "Bob, why do you only have three rings when your franchise won four titles?"

Kraft could shrug and smile – as if he didn't know that particular slow-pitch softball question was coming his way – and say he grew up in a world where the United States and the Soviet Union were sworn enemies and, as a sign of civilian Glasnost, he presented the leader of the other world power his personal Super Bowl ring as an olive branch of peace.

Somewhere, there's a basic-cable TV movie script in the works. The problem is that the replacement ring Kraft expected the next season didn't materialize. Thanks to the New York Giants, he's had two rings taken away that would have covered the thick tan line on whatever finger was fitted for the third ring – one doesn't think Kraft would put them all on his right hand, given the penchant for Bostonians to "throw down" when angered.

In 2005, Kraft told The Boston Globe that Putin was so taken with the opulence of his Super Bowl ring that, in an impromptu humanitarian gesture, he gave it to Russian president as a gift.

Eight years later, Kraft was apparently the victim of a Soviet-style mugging. In a story last weekend in the New York Post, Kraft claimed he showed the ring to Putin and quoted the Russian leader as saying, "I could kill someone with this ring." At that point, Putin allegedly put the ring in his pocket, turned away and was surrounding by KGB toughs and basically took off with Kraft's ring.

Where' a Russian cop when you need one?

Had that actually happened, why wouldn't Kraft have made an international incident out of it at the time? For those fortunate enough to have a Super Bowl ring, it would make sense to think that, if a Russian got possession of it, he would also have the remnants of the finger it came off of.

Kraft elaborated that he was contacted by White House officials telling him it would be in the best interests of U.S.-Russian relations to keep his mugging on the down-low.

Thanks to the power of the NFL and its pull within the American media, it didn't take long for Putin's inner circle to respond to Kraft's claim of a jewel heist. Not only did Putin deny the charge, but characterized Kraft's comments as having no basis in fact.

Had Kraft earned a replacement ring for the one former Cold War foes are currently fighting over, he wouldn't have made his recent "revelations" of a Soviet shakedown. After all, he had earned three rings in four years at the time he allegedly gave one away. The replacement ring was coming. Soon.

It hasn't. His story has changed.

Are you ready for some international political intrigue? Nah, we're ready for some football. Leave the next installment of the Bourne movie franchise to be the retrieval of Kraft's alleged stolen ring. It's time to start talking X's and O's, not who stole the ring from Colonel Mustard in the conservatory.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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