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Another roller-coaster weekend

<p>The sports world lost two icons Sunday after a hectic Saturday of college football.</p>

The sports world lost two icons Sunday after a hectic Saturday of college football.

If there was ever a weekend that encapsulated the roller coaster that sports can take us on, this was it.

It started off on a high note—at least for Blue Devil fans—as Duke pulled off arguably the biggest upset in program history, toppling Notre Dame on the hallowed grounds in South Bend, Ind.

After limping into the contest as 20-point underdogs, head coach David Cutcliffe’s squad maintained its composure as the pressure mounted in the game’s waning minutes to earn the signature win the program has been yearning for. It was an instant classic, the type of victory that people will boast to their grandkids about witnessing.

An optimistic fan would see this victory as a springboard Duke could use to propel itself back into bowl contention and possibly seek its second straight postseason win. With two winnable home games against Virginia and Army next on the slate, suddenly a 4-2 record is within reach, and the season appears, for the moment, salvaged.

But the Blue Devils also suffered a major loss against the Fighting Irish.

Three-time All-American kickoff returner and All-ACC safety DeVon Edwards left Saturday's game early in the first quarter after suffering a non-contact knee injury, unable to put any weight on his left leg as he was helped off the field. Head coach David Cutcliffe said after the game that the injury appeared to be serious ligament damage, and an MRI Sunday confirmed that Edwards had torn his ACL and MCL, ending the Covington, Ga., native's illustrious Duke career.

The loss of a second Blue Devil star player and captain for the season was another reminder of what makes sports so exhilarating—victory rarely comes without adversity.

And, unfortunately, sometimes adversity also comes without victories.

The sports world awoke Sunday morning to learn that Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins’ star 24-year-old pitcher, had tragically passed away just hours earlier in a boating accident. News also broke Sunday evening that golfing legend Arnold Palmer had also died at the age of 87 due to complications from a recent heart problem.

It’s rare to lose two standout individuals like Fernandez and Palmer on the same day, and the gravity of the situation can often make the sports they were ambassadors for feel hopelessly insignificant by comparison. Yet the overflowing support both men received in the hours following their deaths affirmed that their true impact extended well beyond the pitcher's mound or golf course.

MLB teams observed a moment of silence Sunday for Fernandez—a Cuban immigrant and one of the most positive, energetic players in the game—as the Marlins respectfully cancelled their game against the Atlanta Braves. When Miami returned to the field Monday night against the New York Mets, every Marlins player donned Fernandez’s No. 16 jersey, a tribute fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig paid Sunday while their respective teams were in action.

Fernandez was looked up to by several young Cuban players hoping to make it as ballplayers in the U.S., and the touching gestures from Cespedes and Puig—both of whom are busy competing in tight pennant races—were a nice reminder that camaraderie and compassion can trump on-field spats and rivalries.

Although he was old enough to be Fernandez’s grandfather, Palmer played a similar mentoring role in his sport and was vital to the growth of golf internationally. Nicknamed “The King” due to his iconic stature, Palmer was tremendously successful on the course, but even more so off it—where he served as one of the faces of golf through the decades as it made its way out of exclusive country clubs, onto television and into the public domain.

Many of golf’s most prominent players pointed to Palmer as a source of inspiration, and his name will continue to live on with the hundreds of courses he designed to make golf more accessible to all. Palmer is sure to be on everyone’s mind this week at the Ryder Cup—an event he won seven times with the American team—where national pride and team play take precedence ahead of the individual nature of most golf tournaments.

In an era when each play of every sporting event is analyzed, quantified and tweeted about, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

The difference between winning and losing has never been so precise—just ask Les Miles, who saw his LSU Tigers celebrate a game-winning touchdown against Auburn, only to lose the game after a replay review and his job a day later.

But it’s not always the wins and losses that count the most.

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