MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

For no particular reason other than I just do, I have always thought of Troy McKenzie, better known to most as Motley, or Mot, when I hear the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

So it seemed fitting that on Monday morning when I learned of Motley’s passing at the age of 55, there was a slow, steady rain falling, the sky was gray and the house was dark; and seemingly on cue, soon after I turned on the radio, there were the Stones playing their legendary song.

The lyrics, of course, reflect the end of quite a party, but the uplifting and reassuring quality to the melody and the performance, particularly the key lyrical hook, reminds us that we can’t always get what we want, but we’ll get what we need.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, so I just stopped what I was doing to enjoy the song and to think of Troy, who was always one to take what came his way and make the very most of it; and then I wiped my eyes and I smiled.

Motley was a big man, 6-foot-3, I suspect, and his playing-days weight (and, oh, he could play and compete with the best of them) had gone up with time into the upper 200s at least. And he sometimes pretended to be menacing while sporting his casual hairstyle and his sometimes scruffy beard. He could make the craziest wild-man expression in his eyes, but in truth, he was a kind and gentle man — a pushover, actually, who never hesitated to tell his friends, “Love ya, man.” And he did love everybody, and everyone will always love him.

He was a central character and an integral part of the glory days of When Pigs Fly Restaurant and Lounge, the legendary Rick’s Place of Cumberland, Maryland, because everybody, from every part of town, went to Pigs.

Troy was often referred to as “McKENzeee!” in mimic of his football coach at Fort Hill, Dick Bittner. He was, of course, “Motley” as much as he was “Troy,” and one night at one of the grand ACIT parties at the then Holiday Inn, I began to call him and his lifelong best friend Todd Helmick “Silent Bob and Jay.” You would have had to have been there, but it fit that particular instance, and like most things, it made Motley laugh.

Motley loved to laugh. His humor and his wit were unmatched, and mischief was not beneath him. He was so funny, and he loved to make us all laugh. He truly did make this world a better place; a happier place, and wherever he was, it was a better place to be.

Mot had a huge appetite — for food, wine and song, laughter, people, places and living. It was his family and friends, those he loved, and all of us who loved him, who held the biggest home in his heart.

He and his father Ken owned and operated Lucky’s Liquors in Frostburg where Motley would open shop and hold court, making any visit worthwhile and often memorable. He rooted for the Steelers, the Pirates, the Terps and for Fort Hill, his alma mater. He loved sports and he knew a great deal about every sport, as he should have, as he was a great athlete at Fort Hill, starring in three sports, football, basketball and baseball.

He was a great linebacker and tight end at Fort Hill. He was tough, savvy and smart, and could run like a deer. He played on great basketball teams for Coach Rick Harris, had a nice touch from the field, was an outstanding defender and rebounder and could jump out of the gym.

He played baseball for Bob Harbaugh and was a tremendous hitter with good power. If I remember correctly, he was a line-drive hitter and, if I remember correctly (which I do), he had a lot of good-natured fun at the expense of Coach Harbaugh, which the coach not only tolerated, but enjoyed and gave back to his player.

When I would tell the younger guys who would hang around that Motley could run the way he did, they would look at me kind of funny because Mot had become such a big man, but others in the conversation soon made the young guys understand that Troy McKenzie was just a great athlete.

Troy McKenzie was a great person; a great friend. Anybody who knows him could go on and on … His nicknames for everybody, the baseball trips we all took together, the Maryland games, Pigs, his glorious Labor Day parties at his home in LaVale in the company of a couple of hundred of his closest friends …

But I believe the best times were just hanging out with Motley and being with him; talking, laughing and joking. And whenever you parted company with Troy McKenzie he always left you with the feeling of wanting more.

No, we can’t always get what we want, but we get what we need?

It sure doesn’t seem that way today.

Love ya, man. Love you, Mot.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT