By Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 2, 2011
Dottie Day sure isn’t perfect.
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From 1972 to 2007, Day attended 1,025 of Michigan basketball’s 1,030 games. But if you want a percentage, rounded up, you get: 100 percent (OK skeptics, it’s actually 99.6 percent, but who’s counting?).
Day missed three games when her mom died in 1976 and two games when her father died in 1996. Reconstructive foot surgery took her off the sidelines and onto her couch for a month in 2007. Since then, her record has been flawless.
With all the travel the 65-year-old Ann Arbor resident does, it’d be easy to assume she doesn’t like her hometown. But in reality, she loved it so much as a student that she didn’t leave after graduating in 1967 or obtaining a master’s degree in 1968.
Today, she works in the University Hospital.
“I have a tremendous, unbelievable appreciation for the University in general,” Day said. “I just got so much out of my experience, and part of that was the athletics and the contact with the athletes. I love sports — I always have. It all mended together really nicely.”
Her affection for the men's basketball program started with just one player — C.J. Kupec.
During Kupec’s freshman year in 1971 — when freshmen were ineligible to play varsity sports — Day attended the freshman games.
“I just thought he was the best thing since bottled beer,” Day said with a laugh. “(I decided) that when this guy’s a senior, I’m going to go to all of the games. I did that, and I had so much fun that I haven’t stopped.”
For a period during her streak, she traveled with the team while serving as a mentor to athletes for the Athletic Department, but the mentor program stopped in the '80s. That didn’t stop Day, who often drives to games — home or away — by herself.
And while basketball is her first love, she attends nearly every football game. “Except when they interfere with basketball games.”
From 1972 to 2007, she didn’t miss a single football game that didn’t overlap with a basketball game.
Her longest trip ever, in 1983, began with a 10-hour drive to New Jersey for a basketball game against Rutgers. She then had to hurry to make the 36-hour drive to El Paso, Texas. The game wasn’t for another six days, but Day had to beat the team — which flew — to the hotel, so she could be there to greet them.
“We got there just by the skin of our teeth to greet the team when they arrived,” she said.
After the two-day tournament, she made the 18-hour trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. And after Michigan fell to Auburn — the third loss she saw in five days — she made the 18-hour return drive home.
“My friends think I’m nuts, but they also think that it’s a neat thing,” Day said. “Those that go with me say, ‘Now I get it. Now I see why you have so much fun.’ But most people think I’m crazy.
“A lot of my closest friends are men because they appreciate the fact that, 'Hey, here’s a woman that can talk to me.’ ”
Basketball season stretches through the heart of Midwest winters, and Day has driven through many blizzards. Under harsh conditions, she’s often had to travel alone because her partners backed out at the last second.
But Day has never once considered canceling a trip.
“There have been several times where I’ve gone, ‘Eh, this is not going to be fun,’ but there was never a doubt whether I was going to go,” she said confidently.
These days, she still greets the team on the road at their hotel. And while all she gets is a “hug and a hi,” she fondly remembers the days she stayed up late in hotel lobbies, playing cards or backgammon with the players.