‘Flyers Nation’ founder Sean Cobourn has brought his Flyers fandom over 5,000 miles to a military base in Egypt
Now in the National Guard, Cobourn, the blog’s founder, and his unit have bonded over their love for the Flyers.
Shortly after the Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in 2011, a 13-year-old boy sat down at a computer and opened Facebook. Ready to share his thoughts on the Flyers, he pressed “create page.” He named it “Flyers Nation.”
Within a year, he had thousands of likes from people of all age groups.
“It’s funny because most everybody had no idea this 13-year-old was running all these pages,” Sean Cobourn said. “I definitely didn’t share much about myself at all for a long time because I felt weird about that.”
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Cobourn, now 23, a college graduate and a member of the National Guard, has run Flyers Nation for 10 seasons. He’s expanded to Twitter and Instagram, in addition to the original Facebook page, and has the largest following of any Flyers account outside the official team account with 115,000 followers on Twitter, nearly 50,000 on Instagram and 60,000 likes on Facebook.
There were ups and downs along the way, but Cobourn handled much of it himself for almost a decade, moving from the television in his family’s home near Westchester to various televisions across his college campus at Millersville University. Through the rough seasons, he watched every game, even when no one else wanted to keep him company.
“My roommates would be like, why are you torturing yourself?” Cobourn said.
He partnered with other businesses but never knew how to contact the Flyers themselves. Finally, he connected with a team representative, who offered to credential him when he found out Cobourn and his National Guard unit were going to be deployed to Egypt.
Cobourn tucked the Flyers’ press-pass invite in his back pocket and instead focused on finding people who could post while he was deployed. He built a team and then left for the Sinai Peninsula.
As part of Alpha Troop 1-104th Cavalry Regiment, Cobourn works primarily with other soldiers from the Philadelphia area. The chances of finding other Flyers fans was high.
“I’m pretty shy at first, but everybody found out pretty soon that I have all these followers on Twitter,” Cobourn said.
A bunch of his colleagues already followed Flyers Nation. Cobourn said that at first they didn’t believe that he was the person behind the account. It’s given them all something to talk about, and some of his “battle buddies” have also gotten involved with the site. Salvatore Santangelo, who’s a photographer, is looking forward to when Cobourn makes use of the credentials so he can sign on as a Flyers Nation photographer.
Cobourn has been in Egypt since the summer. His outfit is part of an international operation to help provide supplies to remote locations and maintain peace between the State of Israel and the Arab Republic of Egypt.
With Egypt six hours ahead of Philadelphia, the games are often very late at night/very early in the morning in Egypt. Cobourn grabs the night shifts as often as possible so he’s awake when the Flyers play.
As the months go on, time seems to go slower, Cobourn said. The Flyers have given Cobourn and his unit something to focus on. They’re watching to see if the Flyers can turn it around from 2020, and they’re glued to any news about Cam Atkinson, who’s “a breath of fresh air.” They especially love Atkinson’s grandma, “Grandma Marge,” who replied to one of Flyers Nation’s posts on Twitter. Cobourn is guessing not many people know she’s on Twitter since she currently only has 72 followers.
The Flyers have kept in touch with Cobourn despite the distance. They helped make sure he and his unit have ways to watch the games and rep their team, hooking them up with Flyers gear and an NHL TV package. They wanted to throw a watch party, but the first attempt was shot down because it was 1 a.m. on a workday.
“I was like, ‘Alright, I would still be happy to partake in one at 1 [a.m.] on a workday,” Cobourn said with a laugh.
They’re planning another for when the Flyers have an afternoon game, although that won’t happen until 2022. In the meantime, the Flyers sent a care package to Egypt. Cobourn held onto the jersey with all the signatures and one of the Eric Lindros retirement shirts, but he redistributed the rest. He handed out Gritty Chia pets, Gritty plush toys, trading cards and even scarves, despite the warm Egyptian weather.
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“They were all super excited when all the stuff came,” Cobourn said. “It’s cool because a bunch of people who I don’t even talk to that much will start asking me questions about the Flyers and what I do with it, even higher-up officers and stuff like that.”
While Cobourn has been abroad, he’s learned to be more hands-off with Flyers Nation. Moving forward, he’ll keep a team to work on the site. He’s also looking for ways to monetize the site so that it can be a full-time job, as well as for ways to use the platform to help others.
Cobourn started out with a cause that’s close to his heart as a member of the military. He held a raffle for a signed Scott Laughton jersey to help raise money for the Flyers Warriors, a team of disabled vets.
“Any way I can help out with my platform, I’m happy to do, especially for a cause so related to what I’m doing now,” Cobourn said.
The Flyers will celebrate their annual Military Appreciation Night on Wednesday night when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.