06/17/2013 02:27 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

Putin and the Stolen Super Bowl Ring

The story of whether or not Russian leader Vladimir Putin stole the Super Bowl ring of New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft has generated cross-continental political controversy. The Russian president, for his part, has denied he stole the ring.

But the story is not a new one. In January 2011, New York Times columnist David Brooks talked about it during a visit to San Francisco's Commonwealth Club of California. He told the story as part of a discussion about, well, how weird people can be:

But the story I tell to illustrate [how odd people can be] was told to me by Bob Kraft, who owns the New England Patriots. He was in a business delegation to Russia and he had a meeting with Putin with his other business leaders. Kraft's team is a great team, and they've won the Super Bowl, and he had on his finger his first Super Bowl ring. Vladimir Putin saw this ring and said in the middle of the meeting, "Can I see that ring?" Kraft handed it to him, and Putin put it on his finger. Then during the meeting Putin was gesturing with the ring on his finger and at the end of the meeting Kraft says, "You know, Mr. President, I'd be happy to make you a copy of that ring, but that particular ring has great sentimental value to me; it's our first Super Bowl ring." Putin pretends he doesn't hear him, and he puts the ring in his pocket. Kraft goes back to the State Department and says, "I don't want to make a big international incident, but I'd really like that ring back; I'll make him a copy, I'd be happy to." So the State Department people, the embassy, send their feelers out to the Kremlin. They come back to [Kraft] the next day and say, "You know, we think we're gonna issue a press release that you've decided to donate that ring to the Russian people." And that's exactly what happened.

Read more about weird people and other topics from Brooks' program at The Commonwealth Club in The Commonwealth.