Queen and David Bowie sang about it. Billy Joel did, too.
"Pressure, pushing down on me, pressing down on you."
"You cannot handle pressure."
As I write this, the Indians are leading 1-0 in the sixth inning of a game they must win. Casey Blake drove in Ronnie Belliard, who beat out an infield single, then tagged up and advanced to second on Ben Broussard's long fly out.
One run. A run is like gold right now.
The Indians have been cracking under pressure since the Tampa Bay series. If they don't score early, the fretting begins, and tension leads to flailing swings and ruined at-bats.
Friday night, Grady Sizemore reached third base with nobody out in the first inning. If he could have scored, there is a good possibility the tone of the game would have been quite different.
Instead, the pressure was relentless. No runs until the seventh, when Chicago plated a tally. The Indians scored in the ninth, but missed chances to win in the ninth, 11th and 12th. At one point, they had the bases loaded and one out. At another, a runner at second with one out. No dice.
Pressure is the enemy of performance. Pressure led Jose Mesa and Mariano Rivera to cough up leads in Game 7 of the World Series. Pressure burned Ralph Branca in 1951, blurred Don Dekinger's vision in 1985 and made an eternal goat of Bill Buckner.
And there's no way around it. You either find your way of handling the pressure, or you fail. That's what makes it pressure.
The Indians are facing a White Sox team playing out the string at jog speed, more concerned with resting players than beating the Indians. Chicago's starter today, Jon Garland, is reportedly on an 85-pitch limit. Friday, Mark Buehrle was pulled after mystifying the Indians for 5 2/3 innings.
If the Indians fail to make the playoffs, it will have little to do with Ozzie Guillen's bag of tricks, and a lot to do with the Indians between the ears.
Right now, pressure is in control.