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.
But there’s a catch. The new version of Vai’s View will be a little different. It’s evolved. Because I’ve evolved.
It may not appear every week, though that’s my goal. My new work and church assignments demand more time and require less opinion. They have also tamped down some of the fire for sports. Perhaps it’s just maturity.
Yet I’m still passionate, only more about missionary work and reactivation than blown calls and missed tackles. Oh, I’ll still write about BYU football on occasion, but you’re just as likely to find Vai’s View in the Faith section as you are in Sports. My column, as it always has, will reflect where I am in my life.
I have a mission, and I’ll share it with you. You will learn more about the direction I’m being led and the mandate I feel the Lord has given me in this season of my life. I’m duty-bound to fulfill the obligations the Lord has given me and the use of the keys he’s entrusted to me.
One of those obligations was given by Elder M. Russell Ballard seven years ago when he encouraged graduating students at BYU-Hawaii to use new media to tell “our” story as Latter-day Saints.
"There is truth in the old adage that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ " Elder Ballard said. "In many cases, it is with words that you will accomplish the great things that you will now set out to do.”
I’ll share with readers the many miracles God has already created in my life and the lives of members of my stake, along with friends in and out of the church. He is truly “hastening the work of salvation,” a phrase familiar to all Latter-day Saints.
It’s exciting and exhilarating, and like Nephi and so many of you, I’m trying to follow the Spirit “not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”
Vai Sikahema anchors the morning news for NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is a two-time NFL All-Pro and two-time Emmy winner and is enshrined in the BYU Sports and Philadelphia Broadcast halls of fame. He received the 2012 Deseret News President's Award.