Vai's View: The return of Vai's View

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 10:20 p.m. MDT

The NBC10 Philadelphia morning team is, from left, traffic reporter Jillian Mele, anchor Vai Sikahema, anchor Tracy Davidson and meteorologist Bill Henley.

Provided by Vai Sikahema

Enlarge photo»

It has been almost two years.

My weekly column, Vai’s View, made cameo appearances here and there, but since October 2012, it abruptly ended. I stepped away. At the time, I really couldn’t explain why.

Initially, it was work-related. I was in the process of a career change. Then my mother's health deteriorated, so I brought my folks east to live with us. Diabetes eventually took Mom's life, but I treasure the final year she spent in my care.

A few months before Mom died, we were blessed with another grandson, and then our daughter Lana got married. In the midst of all that, I was given more church responsibility.

I was still writing Vai’s View weekly in the summer of 2012 when I was sent to London to cover the Summer Games, my eighth Olympics and a plum assignment I cherish. Upon my return from England, I was summoned to meet with my new general manager and news director. My contract was expiring in May 2013, so I wondered if they had chosen not to extend my contract, effectively terminating my employment.

Instead, I was asked to consider becoming a news anchor. I was completely blindsided. What I expected to be a firing turned out to be a big promotion.

I didn’t accept the offer immediately because I wanted to discuss it with my wife and a few close friends in the business. I called my pals Dave McCann at KSL and Mark Curtis in Phoenix, both of whom started as sportscasters and are now successful news anchors. Dave and Mark offered wonderful advice, and my wife sealed the deal with her blessing.

Quietly, my bosses had me rehearse with various female co-anchors and meet with a team of consultants who had me grow my hair out a bit to show the gray around my temples, upgrade my wardrobe and improve my delivery.

My baptism of fire came with Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. I was in Provo visiting my children and watching BYU play Hawaii that weekend when my boss called and summoned me to return to Philly by Sunday night. He planned to pre-empt the Today Show on Monday morning and have me co-anchor our coverage that entire day as Sandy was forecasted to make landfall along the Jersey Shore in the afternoon.

Frankly, reading a teleprompter is fairly easy; most people could do it with a little practice. News anchors make their money when there is a major breaking news story, limited information is trickling in and there are hours of airtime to fill.

That day, I somehow convinced my bosses — but more importantly, our viewers and my colleagues — that I could calmly, succinctly and accurately communicate vital information during a crisis. Through all of 2013, I was a hybrid at my station: I co-anchored the news from 5-6 p.m. and then anchored sports for our 6 and 11 o'clock broadcasts. At year's end, after 20 years as a sportscaster, I made the transition to being a full-time news anchor, leaving sports altogether. I was assigned a prime spot co-anchoring our weekday morning news from 5:30-7 a.m., leading into the Today Show. My wakeup call is 2 a.m., but I’m home from work midmorning. We eat dinner at 5 p.m., and I’m in bed at 6:30 p.m.

I started my new morning schedule in January. But just three weeks before, on Dec. 8, I was called as president of the Cherry Hill New Jersey Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I erroneously assumed the Lord wouldn’t call someone who was working a graveyard shift and who would spend all of February in Sochi, Russia, covering the Olympics.

I’m six months in and slowly figuring things out. So, given my schedule and limited time, why resume writing Vai’s View?

Simple. It’s a prompting and a duty. It seemed part of the appeal of Vai’s View was the way I intertwined my sports and spiritual experiences. Readers didn’t always agree with my opinions, but I think they knew I was passionate and sincere. Also, writing is a hidden talent that I love exercising.

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