Vai's View: From one BYU football alum to another, advice on faith, family, career

Published: Thursday, June 26 2014 9:20 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, July 2 2014 4:14 p.m. MDT

I threw a dinner party in an Evanston restaurant for David's family and friends after commencement. I shared with him this advice at dinner as he embarks on what will surely be a successful and prosperous career.

The purpose of your education is to build the kingdom, not self-aggrandizement. The process may reward you financially beyond your wildest imagination. Don't let big salaries, custom suits, monogrammed shirts and fancy cars distract you from what's truly important. Nothing wrong with those things. But don't let it blind you. Church service will keep you focused and grounded. Usually, it happens when you’re given stewardship over the less fortunate: materially, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

In my view, my wife's career as homemaker is more important than mine because her work has a greater impact on our eternal future. Mine simply handles our current circumstances and perhaps our financial future. To me, the major purpose of my work is to allow my wife to succeed in hers. I did whatever I could to support her and let her know that raising our children was my highest priority. Her happiness was and is the object of my existence.

I told my bosses during contract negotiations that if they appreciated my work, it was my wife they had to please to keep me. If my job ever interfered with my role as husband and father in any way, I would find another job.

Case in point. I once had a news director who seemed annoyed that I drove the 30 minutes from our Philadelphia studios to my New Jersey home for dinner every evening after our 6 p.m. broadcast. Previous news directors had always accommodated me, knowing that my family was a priority, as were my church responsibilities. The new boss called me into his office one day and told me he wanted me to start going to Phillies, 76ers and Flyers games to get player interviews after the 6 p.m. broadcast for our 11 p.m. show.

I flat out told him to go pound sand and start looking for a new sports anchor because I’d resign. That time was the only chance I had to eat with my kids, read to them, pray with them, help them with homework, tuck them in and give my wife some relief from her day. The task he asked me to perform was done by interns who only needed to hold the mic during postgame interviews. Often, those sound bites never aired due to lack of time.

He was simply irritated I went home. I wasn't above doing that work, as I had done plenty of it in the early years as I built my career. But at that juncture, and with my kids' ages, I had earned my stripes and I wasn’t willing to compromise those evening hours with my family. Plus, I knew the quality of my work was highly valued within my own shop and in the Philadelphia television market.

I told him I'll do something else that allowed me to be home with my kids, even if it doesn't pay as well. "My parents raised me with a fraction of what I make, so don't underestimate me,” I told him. “My salary allows us lots of luxuries, but that's all they are — luxuries. I grew up without them and if they had to, my kids will go without, too. It'll be hard, but I'm more interested in my children's well-being than being on TV. I can get other jobs; I’m not getting other children. I have one chance to raise my kids right. If I don't, does anything else really matter?"

The following day, the boss summoned me. He stood down. "Look, keep your cellphone charged in case Allen Iverson is in a car accident or Curt Schilling throws a no-hitter. Otherwise, go see your family. And don't be late for the 11 p.m."

Now, go make your mark on the world, David. And build the Kingdom. Congrats, Cuz.

Vai Sikahema is the sports director and anchor for NBC10 Philadelphia and host of the "Vai & Gonzo Show" on ESPN Philadelphia Radio. He is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Emmy Award winner and was a member of BYU's 1984 national championship team.

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