CBS correspondent Morley Safer was watching Stansfield Turner like a hawk. "Have you noticed when they leave the line calls to him," he said, eyeballing the CIA director's tennis game, "that he cheats?"
Turner was unavailable for comment on that one, mostly because he was too busy trying to whack tennis balls down people's throats. Safer, meanwhile, was just sitting around in the clubhouse with Eric Sevareid, who called himself "much too old and feeble" to play.
But Sevareid surfaced last night because the network he's retired from was holding its eighth annual tennis tournament at the Arlington YMCA Tennis and Squash Club. The CBS corporate people, who invite a bunch of congressman, call it just "a natural, fun thing," while the slightly more cynical CBS newspeople call it your basic lobby party. As Safer puts it: "Tennis as a metaphor for bribery."
And the Washington political celebrities who come perhaps figure that it never hurts to play tennis with someone who might be convering your indictment one of these years. Then, too, the food: "Have you seen," said Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb.), "what it costs to eat at Jean-Pierre these days?"
Whoops, there's also the tennis. Sixty people play doubles for a trophy that has gone to George Bush twice in past years.
This year, in a field that included presidential counsel Lloyd Cutler as well as nearly 20 congressmen, Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.) and Tom Bolger, chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of Broadcasters, were defeated by tournament winners Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and FBI Director William Webster.
Before collecting his trophy, Webster had popped into the clubhouse a couple of times. He didn't seem especially eager to talk about any impending indictments of congressmen in the Abscam bribery investigation, but he did.
"The grand jury will act soon," he said. "I don't know whether they're going to indict or not indict. But it'll be soon. I think they've completed their work."
Then he offered this analysis:
"I feel like the father of a young girl who's been living with a young man for a few years, and now they're finally going to get married. I don't know whether it makes any difference, but it'll sure make me feel better just having it in the courtroom."
Another topic that nobody, at least nobody from CBS, seemed real hot to talk about was the recent and abrupt resignation of CBS Inc. President John D. Backe.
"I'll talk to you about anything but that," said James Rosenfield, president of the CBS Television Network, who said he knew nothing about a Backe replacement.
"What else would you like to know?" His tennis game, then, "Fair," he replied.
Earlier during the evening, CBS correspondent Andy Rooney stood over in a corner and explained how he'd been lured into the game. "I was here filming on the street, matter of fact, doing a little piece of shoes," he said, mentioning in an aside that "women are never going to catch up in a man's world unless they wear flat-heeled shoes and drop their pocketbooks -- so I was minding my own business, and somebody came up to me that I knew and said, 'Why don't you play?'"
Suddenly, a call came for Rooney to get his act down to the court. "Well," he said, "when you gotta go, you gotta go."