Wednesday December 3, 2008
Bob Varsha, Broadcast Journalist
Bob Varsha did not take an ordinary path to becoming one of the more versatile hosts in sports television. A former world-class runner and corporate attorney, Varsha accepted an invitation from Turner Broadcasting to cover a popular footrace in his home town in 1980. That performance led to an offer of a part-time job from TBS, and Varsha soon found himself with a new career.
Over four years at Turner Broadcasting Varsha handled a wide variety of duties for WTBS and CNN, including hosting a WTBS public affairs program and serving as a weekday sports anchor on CNN. In 1982 he joined the cast of the first weekly motorsports program on television, "MotorWeek Illustrated," airing on WTBS. Two years later he accepted a job with the show's production company, World Sports Enterprises, and began to cover motorsports full-time.
It was auto racing that led him to ESPN in 1986. Over the next 13 years, Varsha's assignments for ESPN and ABC Sports included a healthy portion of motorsports, including Formula One, CART, sports cars, drag racing and motorcycles. But the relationship with an all-sports network allowed him to reach out to other disciplines, including skiing, track and field, gymnastics and figure skating. Among the major events Varsha has hosted are the World Alpine Championships, the Indianapolis 500 Time Trials, the U.S. Olympic Trials, and the New York City and Boston Marathons.
In 1999 Varsha moved on to Cable Network Services, the former Connecticut-based holding company for the Speedvision and Outdoor Life Networks. Continuing his career-long role, Varsha has co-anchored the Sunday night motorports program "Speedvision News Raceweek," and hosted Speedvision coverage of Formula One, The 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. For Outdoor Life he hosted the network's acclaimed first-ever live coverage of the greatest events in cycling, the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. In late 2001 Varsha cast his lot with Speedvision when the two networks were split by new owners Fox Cable Networks Group, and Speedvision relaunched as SPEED Channel. There he has continued his long association with Formula One, Le Mans, and added programs including the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, the ground-breaking automotive history series "Behind the Headlights" and a large number of other programs for the network. He has worked as host and play-by-play for virtually every major form of motorsport in the world (as well as more than few minor ones).
Varsha has also worked for many years in radio. He is currently co-host of "Focus On Racing Radio," a weekly hour of motorsports news and information syndicated nationally by CBS/Westwood One, and serves as the Formula One correspondent for the program "Powershift" on XM Satellite Radio.
As noted, Varsha's entry into television came from his personal involvement in sports. A varsity letter winner in cross country and track at Dartmouth College, Varsha continued his athletic career after graduating in 1973 with a BA degree in Spanish. Thereafter, Varsha was a two-time Olympic Trials marathon finalist. In the 1976 USOT race he ran a personal best time of 2:15:50. In 1977 he graduated from Emory University Law School and began his law career in Atlanta.
Varsha, a native of Northport, N.Y., was born April 21, 1951. He and wife Karen, a photographer and MBA graduate of Georgia State University, live in Atlanta. They have three children: daughter Leslie, and sons Matt and Chase. Leslie works in sports television, and elder son Matt is an aspiring race car driver. Go figure.