Virgen: Carlson name just fits

Davidson Field at Newport Harbor High is a unique high school football venue. Well, it's assuredly rare in Orange County.

There are wooden benches in the stands for seating. The field is not made up of the latest artificial turf, but of grass. Davidson Field is old school.

It only makes sense to have the same type of aura for the name of its press box.

That name became official Thursday, a special night for a special man.

In big, blue lettering the name was unveiled before a football game: Roger Carlson Press Box.

Mr. Roger Carlson, the former sports editor of the Daily Pilot, who worked at the paper for 40 years, said he was overwhelmed to see such a sight, which came on his 75th birthday.

Is old school a fair assessment of Carlson?

"Oh yeah," Carlson said, as he chuckled. "I have to admit that."

There are many ways to describe old school. Carlson showed it in his writing, his editing and his dealing with people. He made sure to never publish anything negative about a high school athlete in a game setting. He only wanted the positive published.

This was also true with family. His daughter-in-law Jana Carlson, who was in attendance, told me about special, personal articles that Roger wrote about his grandchildren after watching and keeping score at their Little League games.

Roger treated the community's children the same way he treated his own. Someone got the bright idea to honor the man, to make sure he wouldn't be forgotten. Bill Lobdell, a former editor at the Pilot who now works for the City of Costa Mesa, pumped the idea of Carlson having the press box in his name.

Many people backed the idea. It seemed to have come about so easily. Roger remained overwhelmed, humbled.

Thursday seemed to be a perfect time for the dedication, a short, but poignant ceremony. Roger recently had a check-up with his doctor, and he's in good health. I would say that he had battled cancer, but Roger prefers the term, "survived."

But that's in the past, so too is the depression. The sadness, or what he called disgusting days, didn't necessarily come from the cancer or the chemotherapy. A few years ago he also lost his wife, Dorothea, who died.

He will never forget her. He said she never complained, not once, when Roger worked overtime or went into work to cover a breaking story on his day off. He misses her.

Thursday was a time to think about her, and it was a time to think about the new days ahead. Roger has been enjoying retirement, living in San Juan Capistrano. He married again on March 5. His wife, Christeena, was there by his side at the ceremony at Davidson Field.

Carlson's family and friends were also there to congratulate him.

Carlson was excited to see a few coaches he had not seen in some time, he said.

As the Sailors' football team took the field, Coach Jeff Brinkley smiled at Carlson as he walked by.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials also came to the ceremony as well as the principal from each of the high schools, Newport Harbor, Costa Mesa, Estancia and Corona del Mar.

As the cover for the press box name was unveiled, everyone applauded. Now no one will forget Carlson.

There were dramatic renovations to the school's Robins Hall. There could be changes in the coming years at Davidson Field. But the old-school aura of the Roger Carlson Press Box is sure to remain.

Twitter: SteveVirgen

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