Viewers who wanted to watch the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday overwhelmingly chose Fox News Channel, Nielsen Media Research reports.

Eclipsing this shocking revelation is word that the combined prime-time cable news audience of about 6 million for the first night of the GOP confab was only about 1 million more people than the comparable audience for the start of the Democratic National Convention's bash in late July.

This is surprising, given that the Big Three broadcast networks had collectively averaged more than 13 million viewers on the first night of the Dems' bash, but did not bother covering the first night of the Republicans' do.

From which we learn that former president Bill Clinton -- the keynote speaker kicking off the Democrats' event in Boston -- is a much bigger draw than Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the two big speakers on the first night of the Republicans' group grope in New York (though thespian Ron Silver, who also spoke Monday night, might argue the point).

On the other hand, it might mean that about 12 million American TV viewers are sheep interested in political convention coverage only if the broadcast networks tell them they are interested.

It's one or the other -- definitely.

Anyway, Fox News Channel averaged nearly 4 million prime-time viewers for its convention coverage on Monday night, compared with CNN's 1.262 million viewers and MSNBC's 854,000 viewers.

On the first night of the Democrats' assembly, the audience had been more evenly divided among the three cable networks, though CNN had the lead with about 2 million viewers to FNC's 1.6 million and MSNBC's 1.1 million.

Meanwhile, over at the Big Three, ABC, which had clocked 4.4 million viewers during the first night of the Democratic convention, nabbed nearly 11 million viewers with preseason football on Monday night. CBS, which had averaged about 4.6 million on Night 1 of the Democratic soiree, logged 9.5 million viewers on Monday night. Even NBC, which by most accounts had a lousy night with two series debuts, managed to amass an average audience of more than 9 million, which was twice as many viewers as it snagged with the start of the Democratic convention.

From this we learn that: Nearly twice as many Americans would rather watch heavily padded men chase each other with a ball than listen to John McCain or Rudy Giuliani explain to them why they should reelect George W. Bush.

And about 3.5 million more viewers would rather endure a rerun of "Yes, Dear" than watch a rock group perform in front of a mosh pit of GOP conventioneers.

Not to mention that 3 million people would rather watch bikini-clad "Fear Factor" babes trapped in cages underwater than see GOP delegates diminish the honor to soldiers who have received Purple Hearts by sporting little Band-Aids on their faces with kitschy purple hearts on them.

Okay, that one we get.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews got a little more hardball than he was expecting at the Republican convention last night when a hooded man jumped the fence around his outdoor set and tried to rush him.

The "Hardball" host was anchoring his show from a small park at Herald Square, about two blocks from Madison Square Garden, where Republicans were gathered for the second night of their convention.

At 7:38 p.m. Matthews and his panelists -- NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory, Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Republican strategist Sheri Annis and former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman -- were debating whether Laura Bush's larger, and less sweet, role in her husband's campaign was part of a plot to force the Democrats to give more face time to Teresa Heinz Kerry, the outspoken wife of candidate John Kerry. In the background, protesters waved signs that said "Mission NOT Accomplished" and "America Can Do Better."

Suddenly Fineman, on whom the camera was trained, looked worriedly over Matthews's shoulder toward the sound of shouting. An MSNBC security guard was seen lunging in front of the camera, past Matthews, and tackling a hooded man who had jumped the decorative iron fence that borders the park. The man was shouting something and seemed to be trying to get to Matthews. According to a witness, he appeared to have his hand under his shirt. MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said the security guard immediately apprehended the man and he was turned over to police.

The network's camera cut to a shot down the street and Matthews then threw it to correspondent Campbell Brown inside Madison Square Garden.

"We're at Herald Square where all the action is," Matthews quipped when Brown tossed it back to him. "And we'll be right back. You're watching 'Hardball's' very live coverage of the Republican National Convention on MSNBC."