In a world turned upside down, where real life imitates television and television imitates life after death, the news out of Chicago seems truly out of this world: The TV station that broadcasts White Sox games is suing the White Sox because the team is so bad, it's hurting the station's ratings.

Fox Broadcasting Company's WFLD-TV-32 filed suit last week seeking to sever its contract with the White Sox, which runs through 1991, because the team is "not desirable to watch." The station accuses owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn of "gutting and stripmining the White Sox team of salary investment, player quality and fan goodwill, which has caused fans to {stop watching White Sox games}."

Fox said White Sox ratings have dropped from 5.1 (percentage of TV homes tuning in) in 1985 to 1.7 in 1988. That ratings loss, the suit charges, has caused the station to go from a $1.5 million profit in 1985 to a $1.4 million loss this year.

There are two other key elements to the suit. The suit charges the team repeatedly violated an agreement in which certain sponsors were given sole rights to advertising spots. The station contracted with Chicagoland Dodge Dealers, which did not renew its $393,000 annual sponsorship because the team advertised other auto dealers during game telecasts, according to the suit. And the suit charges "a campaign of disparagement the team has waged now for two or three years to get a new stadium {and threaten to move to St. Petersburg, Fla., otherwise} that has turned off the fans," said Robert Bergstrom, the attorney representing WFLD.

But the core of this suit -- or at least its most spectacular element -- is the general contention that the team's owners are liable to TV for putting together a bad product. (Boy, if only D.C. stations had thought of this when the Senators were here.) The suit contends the owners specifically failed to sign star players and, in other cases, let talent go.

The Pittsburgh Pirates went that route the past couple of years, and in doing so, built a contender.

"They were paying out $9 million in player salaries when the {TV} contract was signed," Bergstrom said of the White Sox. "By gradually trading away or releasing players, they've reduced that to $5.3 million. The major league average {per team} is $11 million."

The contract called for WFLD's payments to the White Sox to range from $4.7 million in 1986 to $7.9 million in 1991.

Let's look at the flip side: If the White Sox had won the pennant this year, would Fox pay the team more?

Do Reinsdorf and Einhorn have to clear all player moves with the station?

Should catcher Carlton Fisk check the broadcast booth for signs on which pitches to call?

Certainly the White Sox, with questionable moves in recent years and repeated overtures to St. Petersburg, have made themselves almost into pariahs in the Chicago community. That's bad business on their part. WFLD is feeling the brunt of that bad business, but it has a contract.

Maybe Fox and WFLD are just trying to strike a better deal by maneuvering in the courts. That's why we graduate an overload of law-school students every year in this nation. If Fox and WFLD don't get relief in the courts, maybe they just ought to produce low-budget telecasts next year better suited for a Class AAA team, which is essentially what they say the White Sox are.

For the second time in three years, a baseball playoff game will not be shown here by local ABC affiliate WJLA-TV-7, which again will opt for Atlantic Coast Conference football. But this time, D.C.-area viewers will not be left in the dark -- or scurrying to adjust antennas to pick up Baltimore's WJZ-TV-13.

Today's Mets-Dodgers National League Championship Series game will not be seen on WJLA, which is showing its weekly ACC game (Georgia Tech at Maryland). But WFTY-TV-50 will pick up the noon ABC telecast (as will Channel 13). WFTY, which has an agreement with ABC as a backup affiliate of sorts when WJLA turns down programming, took advantage of an FCC regulation designed to make sure preempted network telecasts still are available in the market.

The final figures will not be in until next week, but NBC now is saying that it lost money on the Summer Olympics telecasts. Before the Games, many industry analysts and NBC executives had estimated that the network would turn a profit between $30 million and $60 million, but lower-than-expected ratings shifted the bottom line severely.

NBC had guaranteed advertisers a prime-time rating of 21.2 (percentage of TV homes tuning in). But its average rating for the 17-day Olympic programming was nearly 20 percent under that, forcing NBC to offer sponsors "make-good" ads -- free time elsewhere in the Games or later this fall. Those make-goods probably cost the network well over $50 million.

Footnote: NBC's six owned-and-operated stations made a profit during the Games. Thus, an NBC spokesman said, while the network lost money on the Games, the parent company might finish modestly in the black because of the revenue brought in by those stations.